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8155RE: [hreg] Re: Dear Centerpoint Energy-

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  • Robert Johnston
    Sep 29, 2008



      I agree with you that at times like this it would be nice to have homes not susceptible to power distribution failures.  In some ideal future state, solar would be so affordable that everyone could have it instead of conventional power (though I’m not sure everyone would prefer independent solar power anyway—see below).  But solar panels are still far too expensive to justify increasing utility bills to subsidize them.  Here are a few questions to consider:


      1.       Do you think the average Houston area consumer of electric power can afford to FULLY power their homes with solar at today’s solar system prices, or even with a small subsidy? 

      2.       Would you favor leaving the grid unfixed and providing subsidies only to those wealthy enough to take advantage of them?

      3.       Or, would you prefer public funding (taxpayer supported, in other words) of solar panels for everyone?  Would you mandate government control of homes and energy usage first, i.e., control of appliance efficiency, insulation, etc., so that taxpayers buy solar only for homes that are already efficiently operated (conservation being the least expensive option)?

      4.       Do you think that all solar installations will have their own backup storage adequate for night time use, etc., or will they need a grid to tap into?  (in which case we have to fix it anyway)

      5.       Suppose we leave the grid unfixed (or fix it, doesn’t really matter for the argument), and add an extra $20/mo per 1000 kwh for solar panel subsidies.  In 15 years, this would be $3600.  Suppose after adjusting for program costs, this results in a $3000 subsidy.  What do you think the cost of a 1000 kwh/month solar system would be?  One recent estimate I found was $50,000 (http://www.babeled.com/2008/08/27/home-solar-panel-cost-analysis/).  Where would everyone get the remaining $47,000 after applying their $3000 subsidy?  (Even if the $50,000 estimate is high, and even if some federal tax credits also were applied, the cost is still MUCH higher than the average $3000 subsidy that would be available if everyone used it).

      6.       If only the wealthy can afford a solar system, what do you think of the fairness of a system that increases the monthly utility bills of the poor so that subsidies can be given to the wealthy?  (since they’d be the only ones able to afford the remaining $47,000 per 1000 kwh capacity, they’d be the only ones claiming subsidy checks).  If only 1/10 of consumers claimed the subsidies, then the subsidy could be increased to $30,000.  So the rich get $30,000 and pay $20,000, and the other poor suckers foot the bill.  What a deal!  (This is worse than use of tax credits for renewable energy because at least taxes are collected on a progressive scale and the poor don’t may much or any, whereas utility bills fall on the poor and rich alike and thus the subsidy would impact the poor in a regressive way [or would you propose utility bills be linked to income, and we file income forms with our utility applications?!]).

      7.       Major storms hit our area once very ~25-30 years (the last one to do this kind of damage in my area was Alicia in 1983).  Consider that the life of a solar panel is about the same 25-30 years.  Which is less expensive, repairing power distribution every 30 years or replacing solar panels every 30 years?  If $10/mo for 15 years is the cost of repairing the distribution system per 1000 kwh, then our cost as homeowners is $1800 per 1000 kwh/mo.  I can easily afford $1800 compared to $50,000 (or even just the solar panel part of the system if the rest is still OK).

      8.       As things stand today, the wealthy can—whenever they choose—opt out of the system and save the $1800 per 1000 kwh by applying it towards an independent solar system.  At least in this case, though, they only save what they themselves would have paid, not the payments made by the poor who couldn’t afford to take advantage of the subsidy.  Isn’t this a better way to have things?  It still increases the incentive for solar (vs. the pre-storm case), but without penalizing the poor unfairly.


      Even if solar becomes much less expensive, there is no guarantee that the ultimate preferred business model will be standalone home-based installations.  Electricity consumers may in the end prefer distribution from a central solar installation (perhaps located in El Paso, where efficiency would be higher, or at a central solar furnace instead of PV, etc.) in combination with wind, natural gas backup, etc.  What is safe to say is that as technology continues to develop, costs of renewable energy will decrease.  If we don’t interfere in the market system by providing artificial “taxes” and subsidies, the chances of arriving at the best business model and mix of technologies are increased.  (As an example of wasted money, look at all the money spent on hydrogen fueled transportation; without all the government subsidies and regulation, this wouldn’t have happened, and that money might have been more quickly channeled into what private industry and the marketplace has concluded is the most effective next technology, hybrids and hybrid plug-ins).


      I’ll repeat my earlier statement:  There is no free lunch.  Even when the government (or Centerpoint) gives you a “free” lunch, it isn’t truly free.  Subsidies increase inefficiency and irrational resource allocation (look at corn-based ethanol as just another example).  I think you should try to keep as much of your money in your own pocket as possible—don’t volunteer it to Centerpoint—and then use it in the manner that YOU determine is the most beneficial for you and your family.  Who knows?  Maybe that will mean buying a CFL or installing more attic insulation, not worrying about solar panels.  You may find that the extra $20/mo you want to volunteer to Centerpoint would buy enough attic insulation to save you the $20 plus the $10 for power distribution repairs.




      Robert Johnston



      From: hreg@yahoogroups.com [mailto:hreg@yahoogroups.com] On Behalf Of Stephanie Edwards-Musa
      Sent: Monday, September 29, 2008 10:44 AM
      To: hreg@yahoogroups.com
      Subject: Re: [hreg] Re: Dear Centerpoint Energy-


      So, no incentives helps everyone?  Not trying to be smart, just sayin'.

      There are already energy efficiency incentives in place that Centerpoint is required to pay for (which in the end comes from us) and hardly anyone uses.  As a matter of fact, most people pay serious bucks for these services as opposed to using the program. 

      Who is talking about a free lunch?  I'm not saying people get free solar panels.  Everyone who chooses to would have 'skin' in the game monthly and paying their part for solar.

      On Mon, Sep 29, 2008 at 10:31 AM, Jay Ring <txses@...> wrote:

      If the $10 a month per subscriber isn't enough money, it won't be enough
      money. Adding Centerpoint to the proposal doesn't change that.

      Part of thinking globally and sustainably means finding solutions that
      work for everyone, not just a few people. You may have a better view at
      a football game if you stand up, but if everyone else also stands up
      too, then we're all worse off.

      If the incentives work, they draw people into solar systems. Thats the
      whole point of it. But when everyone is trying to draw the money out,
      we are all just getting back the $10 we put in in the first place.
      Adding Centerpoint to the mix means one more salary to pay, and we'd
      probably only be getting $8-9 of our money back.


      - Jay

      --- In hreg@yahoogroups.com, "Stephanie Edwards-Musa" <steph@...> wrote:

      > All of the lines are 'public' which means we as ratepayers pay for the
      > repair and maintenance in one way or another.
      > You would rather have more overhead powerlines?
      > My recommendation is not a me, me, me idea. It's something that
      everyone in
      > Houston and surrounding areas should be concerned about. PUC approved
      > Centerpoint to charge us every month for 15 years to upgrade/repair
      > power lines. Within that 15 years what is the likelihood that another
      > will roll through? We will be in this same position again and still
      > paying time and time again.
      > It would be naive to think that if no incentives were offered that we
      > not pay anything to repair and replace lines. Since we are already
      going to
      > pay Billions for this over the next 15 years then we have the right to
      > request that outages be reduced next time, right? The cost to bury
      > lines is incredibly costly and would likely not significantly recude
      > anyhow.
      > Just thinking logically. Centerpoint is not going away. Storms like
      > will not make people go off the grid. Why not find a way to make
      > happy and work WITH the utility companies.

      > On Mon, Sep 29, 2008 at 10:15

      AM, Robert Johnston junk1@...wrote:

      > > There is no free lunch. If Centerpoint were to pay subsidies,
      > > money would have to ultimately come from consumers. Best to cut out
      > > middleman.
      > >
      > > As for other areas, I'm no expert, but seems to me that with power
      > > generation and power transmission decoupled as it is in Texas now,
      there is
      > > no reason for Centerpoint to incentivize solar.
      > >
      > >
      > >
      > > Robert
      > >
      > >
      > >
      > > *From:* hreg@yahoogroups.com
      [mailto:hreg@yahoogroups.com] *On
      Behalf Of *Stephanie
      > > Edwards-Musa
      > > *Sent:* Sunday, September 28, 2008 10:29 PM
      > > *To:* hreg@yahoogroups.com
      > > *Subject:* Re: [hreg] Dear Centerpoint Energy-
      > >
      > >
      > >
      > > Robert,
      > >
      > > What we pay in over the 15 years is not even hardly 1/4 the cost of
      > > system. That is why I had some figures on there. What I am
      referring to is
      > > the 40-50% incentive that is offered in other places.
      > >
      > > I am saying let's get out of the 17th century with overhead power
      lines and
      > > do something that will actually benefit us in the event of another
      > > which will happen, sometime.
      > >
      > > $10 towards solar panels a month? That would get me a few yard
      > >

      > > On Sun, Sep 28, 2008 at

      10:20 PM, Robert Johnston junk1@...

      > > wrote:
      > >
      > > Sorry, but this makes no sense to me. Why would you want to involve
      > > middleman—Centerpoint—in the process of purchasing solar
      panels? You said
      > > you'd welcome them charging $10 or $20 more per month in return for
      > > incentives to install solar panels. Why not just take the $10 or
      > > and use it directly? Go buy your solar panels. You can be sure
      that this
      > > would add up to more than the Centerpoint incentives would, after
      > > deduct profit, handling costs, etc., from the $10 to $20/month you
      > > them.
      > >
      > >
      > > Robert
      > >
      > >
      > >
      > >
      > >
      > > *From:* hreg@yahoogroups.com
      [mailto:hreg@yahoogroups.com] *On
      Behalf Of *Stephanie
      > > Edwards-Musa
      > > *Sent:* Sunday, September 28, 2008 10:27 AM
      > > *To:* hreg@yahoogroups.com
      > > *Subject:* [hreg] Dear Centerpoint Energy-
      > >
      > >
      > >
      > > Hi Everyone,
      > >
      > > Hope it is ok to post this in to the group, but I was thinking the
      > > other day about how Centerpoint Energy is going to charge everyone
      > > to repair the lines that were damaged by Hurricane Ike. The more I
      > > thought about it the more I realized how absurd this was so I put
      > > together this article on my website and wanted to know what the
      > > group's thougts were on the topic.
      > >
      > > Basically, instead Centerpoint bringing in over 9M a month to repair
      > > overhead power lines why not consider Incentives for their customers
      > > and Houston area residents to install Solar Panels? Here is is. If
      > > this should not have been posted to the group, I can remove it.
      > >
      > > None the less, I would love to hear your thoughts.
      > >
      > > ----------------------------------------------------------
      > > Hurricane Ike was only a Category 2 Storm. Yes it caused a lot of
      > > damage, I'm not downplaying that. But it could have been a lot
      > > worse. To date there are still nearly 500,000 people without power
      > > in the Houston area, a full 2 Weeks after the Storm.
      > >
      > > On top of that Centerpoint Energy, the company that owns and
      > > maintains a Majority of the Lines in and around Houston announced
      > > that they were going to charge Homeowners, Renters, anyone who has
      > > Electricity $3.50 per 1,000 kwh a month to repair what was broken.
      > >
      > > That is not bad. I will not feel that $3.50 a month as most
      > > Homeowners won't. BUT that is for 15 years! Let that soak in for a
      > > minute. 15 Years. It was just 3 years ago that we had this SAME
      > > problem with Hurricane Rita that was not even as Big of a Storm as
      > > Ike was. So what happens when another storm rolls through? What
      > > then?
      > >
      > > I think this is absurd. Why? Why are we going to pay to repair and
      > > have MORE overhead power lines surrounded by trees that fall in the
      > > wind and storms, get struck by lightning and take Power Lines down
      > > with them. WE ARE IN A HURRICANE PRONE AREA!
      > >
      > > Here is the Math behind the Rate Hike:
      > >
      > > Everyone pays a MINIMUM of $3.50 a month
      > >
      > > Atleast 2.58 Million Customers affected according to recent numbers
      > > released in the media
      > >
      > > Equals a MINIMUM of atleast $9,030,000 each month
      > >
      > > Which over 15 years Equals, well, too much money
      > >
      > > So here is my request to Centerpoint Energy. I think it makes sense.
      > >
      > > Dear Centerpoint Energy, please- instead of adding a measley
      > > $3.50per 1,000 kwh used to my bill every month please add $10.
      > > Heck, make it $20! But here is what I ask that you do with it.
      > >
      > > Go ahead and repair what is broken. However please do not build
      > > more poor infrastructure that is so incredibly susceptible to
      > > Hurricane and Tropical Storm weather. Instead offer incentives for
      > > Homeowners to go Solar. A simple 2kw system on a Rooftop would run
      > > almost everything in an average home. It would run a Refrigerator,
      > > Fans, Lights, Television….everything but your HVAC system. Oh,
      > > WOW! That is what people are paying $50-$60 a day right now to run
      > > on a Generator!?! By the time you pay $500 for a generator, add $60
      > > a day for gas to run it Homeowners have incurred Well over $1,000
      > > and possibly $2,000 already because of our lines to be taken out.
      > > The residents in and around Houston are the ones that pay you to be
      > > in business. Without us, you would not exist. Not that it is
      > > really relevant, just a reminder.
      > >
      > > If you need more reasons why this should be a no brainer, here ya
      > >
      > > -Solar power is produced MOST when your Grid is the weakest. Smack
      > > in the middle of the day. That is when Houstonians crank down their
      > > A/C to stay cool, Refrigerators work harder to stay at temperature,
      > > etc. You would likely not have to build MORE Grids.
      > > -From the looks of the media right now, your Customer Complaints are
      > > at an all time HIGH. Just imagine what it would be like with a
      > > little Solar on every roof. A whole heck of a lot less.
      > > -Solar Panels sustain Hurricane Force winds, unlike overhead power
      > > lines.
      > > -With Solar Thermal Hot Water we could still have Hot Water during
      > > outages.
      > > -I could even install a Solar Power HVAC system!
      > > -Rates are still going….UP Power is NOT getting CHEAPER- That
      > > your costs also.
      > >
      > > Why would we charge everyone, including renters, $10 a month per
      > > 1,000 kwh used? Don't. Keep the hike at $3.50 for Renters and make
      > > it $10 a month for Homeowners. You already ask whether or not
      > > people rent or own, right? That's reasonable. Atleast in my mind.
      > >
      > > My point is, Hurricane Ike could have been a Category 5 and it is
      > > likely that we would still have 1.5 million people without power
      > > right now. How does atleast $9 Million a month justify putting us
      > > back in that same, highly vulnerable position?
      > >
      > > Incentives for us to go Solar, this really should be a No Brainer.
      > > Thanks.
      > >
      > >
      > >
      > >
      > > --
      > > Stephanie Edwards-Musa
      > > Realtor, Certified EcoBroker
      > > Mobile: 281-635-9444
      > > Prudential Gary Greene, Realtors
      > > www.TurningHoustonGreen.com

      > > Steph@...
      > >
      > >
      > >
      > --

      > Stephanie Edwards-Musa
      > Realtor, Certified EcoBroker
      > Mobile: 281-635-9444
      > Prudential Gary Greene, Realtors
      > www.TurningHoustonGreen.com

      > Steph@...

      Stephanie Edwards-Musa
      Realtor, Certified EcoBroker
      Mobile:  281-635-9444
      Prudential Gary Greene, Realtors

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