Green energy is not a fad in the US. More and more families are keen to improve their carbon footprint as best they can, and solar power generation systems are an obvious first step. A clearer picture of the damage to the environment and the recent first-hand experiences of climate change via Hurricanes help to deliver a further blow for fossil fuels and traditional energy supplies. The US has seen a divide between good and evil with solar and grid energy for a while. The question is, is this divide irreparable with solar finally winning? Or, is there still some fight left in these traditional utilities?
The Old battle of Evil Carbon vs. Pure Green Energy
There is a definite divide with green, solar power generation and damaging fossil fuels. One is the evil source of fuel and power damaging the climate and natural world, while the other is something of a savior that could make everything better. One is a source of strength that homeowners feel that they should shun in favor of the other.
This all suggests a massive surge in favor that takes energy use away from major electric utilities and grid-based power. Countless homeowners see the potential in off-grid power generation and make that switch. The question is, is this change in the power supply and opinion causing that big an impact on these traditional energy suppliers?
As consumers would expect, many utilities are still fighting to win
There is the clear sense from news reports that electricity companies are a little shaken by this turning of the tide. There are plenty of families that have saved money by reducing their energy usage, selling energy back to the grid or cutting themselves off entirely. In some cases, there are even stories of energy companies fighting against solar programs to protect their business and profits. Utilities struggled to kill off rooftop solar in Arizona and Indiana, among other states, by reducing compensation to those feeding energy back into the grid. It is this sort of underhanded lobbying that doesn’t help their reputation.
There are those that are a little optimistic that these tactics worked. There was a slowdown in the adoption of rooftop solar power generation systems. There were four years of growth that averaged 63% annually, but this dropped to 19% and appeared to have plateaued. Others see this as a temporary issue, and forecast growth in the future.
Decreasing profits, low-cost solar systems, technological advancements and government measures all work against the energy utilities.
There are a lot of obstacles that the energy industry has to deal with right now. It isn’t enough to say that grid-based electricity suppliers struggle due to the popularity and image of renewable energy. There is also the fact that there are other economical and technological factors in play here. All of these factors combine to create a system that no longer appears viable as solar energy grows.
The most important aspect here could be the changing costs of other energy systems
Solar wasn’t such a concern for utility companies when it was a niche product for the richer households. A few wealthy suburbs showing off their solar panels didn’t make too big a dent in profits and transactions. However, that has all changed. The US has seen a dramatic decrease in the price of all kinds of green energy systems for the home.
These include wind power and geothermal options, but solar is at the top of the list. Homeowners of all walks of life are now able to generate electricity and budget energy in such a way that they save money. Increased competition and production of tech across the world means an affordable solution for almost every home.
The biggest concern here for these utility companies is that these costs and accessible will lead to more off-grid homes
Going off-grid is the logical next step for many homes that can afford the investment. Many already cut their grid energy use with solar power generation supplies, but a more efficient system would cut out these over-charging companies entirely. This means many lost customers and a significant drop in revenue.
It is easier than ever for the homeowner to achieve this off-grid solution with the right system and battery.
As battery storage becomes cheaper, some customers will find themselves tempted to leave the grid entirely. Battery storage is a key factor in this argument because this recent development changes the face of solar power generation for the better. There was a time when consumers believed that green energy was unreliable. There are still politicians and businessmen that slate solar power because there isn’t any consistency to it. They still think that solar becomes redundant when the sun sets.
This isn’t the case at all with the right solar power generation system and battery pack. The right, efficient panels collect energy during the day, convert it to usable power and users can store a large supply in the battery. These batteries are a backup option when the sun sets, providing that consistent stream of energy. With the right battery and system, homeowners can go off-grid 24/7. The bonus here is that these batteries are slimmer and more efficient than ever before.
Accessibility to energy means more than cheap systems and plentiful batteries.
There is no doubt that the fight between fossil fuel energy companies and green energy companies will rage on for as long as it can. But therein lies another key issue with solar power generation. Green energy is renewable and accessible on a simple, environmentally-friendly scale. Fossil fuels have run their course. Resources are always going to be without drilling in areas that are off-limits – and for a good reason. Any desire to drill in the Arctic or damage another landscape for a small supply of coal damages the reputation of the industry even further.
In addition to this, these utilities for grid-based energy have to deal with the problem of the price of natural gas. A sharp decline in gas costs led to concerns over the cost of the consumer and the running costs of energy plants. There was a reduction from $13/MMBtu in 2008 to $2/MMBtu in 2012. This lead to a subsequent decrease in the cost of wholesale power. Some companies had to consider the worth of retiring some of their coal-fired power plants in favor of those with natural gas instead.
The speed of developments is a problem for those trying to keep up with it all.
There is more to the issue than a hatred of solar and solar overpowering the energy companies. Some companies want to keep pace with the competition, but struggle due to technological requirements and upgrade costs. Experts say that a large number of utilities are slow to keep up because of the complexity of this issue. There is so much to fix to stay on top of the game that they struggle to do so.
One of these factors if the issue of “distributed energy resources,” also known as DERs. These convenient systems work with all kinds of green techs, such as wind, geothermal and solar power generation. Companies install them near homes and businesses for a more natural approach to smart systems like meters and thermostats. Consumers love them because they are emission-free, energy efficient and cheaper to run. Simple measures like this continue to undermine grid energy while improving the image of solar.
In addition to this, there is a high focus on energy efficiency programs and other government incentives.
Energy efficiency is a priority for many consumers when choosing new systems and appliances for the home. Some do this for economic reasons, while others lean more towards the environmental benefits. Experts forecast growth in energy efficiency programs from 2010 to 2025 of around 300%.
This is a massive part of the industry that grid-based utilities cannot ignore. The problem here comes from a couple of important factors. First, there is that issue of slow growth into new technologies and upgrades; then there is the high cost of making those changes.
The power grid is long overdue an overhaul, and all measures won’t come cheap. There was never a legal requirement to upgrade tech in line with expectations for modern services. For example, power line monitoring systems are woefully out of date in many areas. The scale of the problem and lack of economic growth create a big problem here.
In addition to these new energy efficiency measures, there are also government programs designed to incentivize specific technologies.
This system of incentivization means more attention and funding on schemes that either serve the public, or the political agenda, most beneficially. Renewable energy solutions and solar power generation are often high on this list now, and traditional energy companies hate that.
This change in attitude is essential for the future of the industry. There was a time when oil and gas companies were able to write off a percentage of their extractions or acquire cheap mining leases on public land. In recent years, there was an apparent shift away from these sorts of deals. However, it is unclear what the Trump Administration will allow. The Arctic drilling plans and Dakota pipelines suggest a slump back into some old ways.
One of the underlying factors with this issue of solar versus grid-based energy is that solar merely is much more appealing and convenient for homeowners now.
The concerns about grid electricity go beyond the cost of its use and its source. There is also the fear that it will cut out in an emergency and users will find themselves left in the dark. Blackouts are more and more common these days with issues of energy supplies and natural disasters. Recent storms, like those in the Caribbean and Hurricane Harvey and Maria, show the impact that the weather, and other natural events, have on power supplies. Lines go down, and people suffer without access to lighting, sanitary food, healthcare equipment and more.
With grid-power, it is either there, or it is not. Back up solar power generation is essential in all areas that may be at risk of similar catastrophes. Florida residents are sure to reconsider the possibility of solar power generators and systems with fears over future storms. The East coast around New Jersey and New York is well aware of the implications too. Solar power back up generators conveniently offers peace of mind. Homeowners can generate electricity with solar panels, store it in batteries and run it through these powerful machines.
This provides just enough power for an essential appliances in the home. Families won’t be gathering around the home cinema, but they can chill and cook food, use the AC and light their way. An added benefit of these solar power back up generators over traditional kinds is that they are much cheaper and easier to run. There is no expensive fuel to locate in an under-supplied store; there are lower running costs overall. Then there is the environmental aspect of the renewable source and lack of noise pollution.
Can the utility companies come back from this situation?
There are many politicians and business leaders that will bury their heads in the sand about the future of grid-based electricity and renewable energy solutions. Many have the mindset, and budget, to throw money at issue and assume that they can rely on coal, oil and consumer loyalty. Others continue with the thought that climate change is a hoax and green energy and solar power generation over-rated.
This approach can’t last with so many hurdles to overcome. Energy companies and utilities no longer have to worry about a new, favorite competitor that lower profits a little. Instead, they now deal with a monster that continues to take consumers away and damage their reputation.
Many consumers have turned to green energy and solar for good. New technology and lower prices mean it is even easier to do so in a more meaningful way. Further developments in renewable tech, fossil fuel issues, and environmental disasters will only lead to an increase with time. It may not be the final nail in the coffin for traditional energy companies just yet, but there is no way back.