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Let's get bigger

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Letter - From the July 20, 2009 issue by Greg Reis

The article "Let's Get Small" noted some problems with incentives for distributed generation in California — many of which I experience with my 1.2 kilowatt photovoltaic system (HCN, 6/22 & 7/6/09). Two years ago, I generated $25 more electricity than I used. I lost this "credit" at the end of my one-year net metering period. Because it wasn't credited to me, the incentive was for me to use $25 of additional electricity, not to conserve. The other problem is that during that year, I only generated 55 percent of my electricity demand — due to time-of-use metering, electricity is more expensive during the day, helping me save money. I'd like to generate a larger proportion of my electricity, but there is no economic benefit for me to do so.

The article also noted that 2,000 megawatts of existing (in 2007) distributed generation out of 1 million megawatts of generating capacity seems "hardly worth discussing." Sure, this is about 0.2 percent, but look at the potential. If we increase this small amount by 10 times with an average-size system of 1 kilowatt (like mine, which is fairly small), we end up with 120 million units generating 120,000 megawatts, or 12 percent. Double the average size and we get 25 percent of our electricity this way — very doable and very much worth discussing. Maximizing the size of each installation is the way to do this, and California needs to ignore lobbyists and start creating incentives for me to put a couple more solar panels on my roof.

Greg Reis

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