Thursday, March 1, 2012

Power to the People

While we were in Hawaii we flirted with the idea of buying a second home, maybe a condo on the Big Island. In the real estate ads we noted several references to properties that had photovoltaic panels.

Later over dinner with friends of ours who live on the Big Island we asked about the prevalence of solar panels. They revealed that their electric bills were extremely high; averaging around $600 per month. This last Christmas when he had holiday lights on their house, the electric bill rose to $800. Homes in Hawaii generally do not require heat or air conditioning, so we are talking about just powering lights, refrigeration and hot water.

Hawaiians who can afford it have been availing themselves of State and Federal energy programs to subsidize installation of solar panels and photovoltaic panels on their homes. Another person we were talking with revealed that his photovoltaic conversion cost $47,000 a third, of which, was his cost after government subsidies. At these electric rates, he expected his photovoltaic installation to pay for itself in reduced electric bills in roughly five years.

As chance would have it, the very day following our conversation, an article appeared in the West Hawaii Today newspaper detailing that, due to the increase in home photovoltaic panel installations, Hawaiian Electric Co. has lost significant revenue. As a result, the HEC would be raising it’s rates to make up for the loss in revenue. In other words, sell less electricity at higher cost. Renewable energy, it seems, is bad for business and the rate payer is expected to pick up the tab.

As I outlined in my two previous posts, the trend is clear: Corporate America will continue to find ways to suck more of our individual income and give us less in return.

“Hawaii solar savings spark higher electric bills”, West Hawaii Today, Feb.6, 2012.


DJan said...

At least they have made the WV a bit easier to use, Robert. I had no idea it was so expensive to use electricity in Hawaii. Everything seems to be costing more, everywhere.

Rain Trueax said...

The answer to that has to be getting off the grid totally. Of course, when they have government in their back-pocket through all their sweetheart deals, they will probably try to find a way to charge everyone for electricity whether they are hooked up or not... Americans who vote for the Corporate party are blind to what is happening. Not that the other party is far behind them for their selling out average Americans.

Kay Dennison said...

This really bothers me. It's just another way to make our lives more difficult.

I hate the new Blogger interface. I tried it and changed back in less than 10 minutes.

Robert the Skeptic said...

DJan People desperate to make a buck drive greed... and spam.

Rain Getting totally off the grid is not really practical without accepting certain sacrifices, unfortunately. Even if you reduce YOUR power consumption, everyone else may not... the cost of keeping the grocery store air conditioned will be passed on to us in the form of higher food prices, just to name one example.

Kay I suspended word verification and the spam started almost immediately. Discouraging.

History Doc said...

I looked into installing photovoltaic panels, here in sunny, hot Texas.

Turns out that average temperatures above the 80s make for very inefficient solar panels. I was told I couldn't install enough of them to run my house even if I covered the whole roof.

Who'da thunk?

Robert the Skeptic said...

Doc That's interesting about photovoltaic panels in hot weather. I question their effectiveness in climates such as we have in Oregon... I think the damn things would rust up here instead.

The serious reality is that they will NEVER be sufficient enough to replace the high volumes of cheap fossil fuels.

Rain Trueax said...

Actually people do get off the grid and yes, they do have to sacrifice certain things when they do it, operate a different way. But as long as we are on it, they can raise rates until they equal whatever they want us to pay-- no matter what the usage. As long as they have equivalently government backed monopolies, they can do it. Some new energy technologies actually create more energy than you need at certain times and you can sell that back to them with an inverter, a grid connected way to have energy go both ways.

billy pilgrim said...

wow, $600/month for a little electricity is outrageous. i pay about $50/month and that includes my hot water heater and several oil filled radiators.

of course our electricity is supplied by a government controlled crown corporation. there are some advantages to mild socialism.

Anonymous said...

Those electric rates are unbelievable. I had no idea. Doesn't Hawaii regulate the rates? I know that the electric company here has to get permission every time they raise rates.

And I'm with Rain Trueax. Would be awesome to get off the grid completely.

Robert the Skeptic said...

Rain If people can get off the grid, I think that is great. The question would be, though, at what cost/investment to do so? Is it practical for everyone everywhere and thereby could we eliminate power utilities altogether? I have my doubts at being able to do this on a large scale.

Billy The US is obtaining a huge amount of our natural gas from Canada, so in some ways I wonder to what extent Americans are unsubsidizing Canadian costs? But then again, our utilities have to factor in profits and bonusus. Not cheap.

Dissenter Electric rates are regulated by the Public Utility Commission in Hawaii as in other states. However, if the company can justify the rates, they are usually approved. Remember that Hawaii has no natural source of energy other than geothermal; no oil, no natural gas, no coal... Every drop of fossil fuel is shipped there, primarily diesel fuel which is the primary source of electricity.

Secret Agent Woman said...

That's so wrong. And so very short-sighted (as most corporations are).

You know, you can enable comment moderation without the horrible word verification, and that way spam can't get through to your blog. My policy is that I try once, and if I can't make the word verification work because they've made it nearly illegible in some cases, I give up until the next post.

Antares Cryptos said...

Solar panels are still inefficient and very costly too produce.

It is shameful that it is not encouraged, though.

Robert the Skeptic said...

Secret Agent I have removed the word verification, I find it an annoyance as well.

Cryptos Good news, though, China can now undercut our costs of producing solar panels!

billy pilgrim said...

you're not subsidizing our energy, natural gas is almost being given away in north america right now, so much so that many producers and shutting in their wells. your shale gas has pulverized prices!

Robert the Skeptic said...

Maybe so... but doesn't it take energy to extract the oil/gas out of shale? Wonder what the net cost effect is?

Are Canadian wells shutting down because of prices or have they reached their "peak". I just read an article that suggests the latter.

Anyway, may all be moot... candidate Newt is promising we will be paying $2.50 /gallon for gas if we elect him.

Heidrun Khokhar said...

Electric companies have the entire world at their mercy because it seems nothing will function without it.
In many countries they now use load shedding, turning power off in one place and directing it to another and they control the time and the location even if you pay your bill!
Our Ontario province we are charge plenty and we're even on smart metres to save energy but if a surplus in the grid occurs they give our saved power away for free.

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