News / Economy

Experts: Solar Power Could Soon Pose Economic Threat to Electric Utilities

Experts Say Solar Power Could Soon Pose Economic Threat to Electric Utilitiesi
X
Mil Arcega
July 07, 2014 9:37 PM
In many states, brown energy - electricity generated from polluting, non-renewable resources like coal - is still cheaper than solar

After decades as an expensive and sometimes impractical source of energy, experts say solar power is finally coming into its own.   Not only has the technology improved the efficiency and cost of solar panels, in some states, rising prices for conventional electricity make solar panels an economical alternative.  But can solar power actually compete with conventional electric utilities?  

John Desmarteau waited 10 years before switching to solar, but the retired Washington physician is glad he did.  

He says he's cut his reliance on the electric company by 85 percent, and saved the equivalent of more than 200 trees.

“In fact, for the last two months, which would be April and May 2014, we’ve used from our electric utility, no electricity," said Desmarteau.

The 39 photo-voltaic panels installed on Desmarteau's roof generate three times more than he consumes even with the air conditioning at full blast.  

It's not just a greener alternative - for some it can mean real savings.  The industry is still evolving but AstrumSolar's Mark Manthy says companies like his are making it easier for consumers to switch.

"In most markets right now, especially up and down the [U.S.] East Coast and the West Coast - you could put solar panels on your house for no money down.  Somebody else owns them, you pay them a monthly payment that is cheaper than you would pay your utility," said Manthy.

In many states, brown energy - electricity generated from polluting, non-renewable resources like coal -  is still cheaper than solar.  But green advocacy groups such as the Rocky Mountain Institute say that's changing. 

“In our most optimistic case that we analyzed, all customers in the Southwest, in the states of California, Arizona, New Mexico, Colorado and Utah would see favorable economics within 10 years and 90 percent of the customers in the Mid-Atlantic," said RMI's Jon Creyts.

Some will not wait that long.  American University in Washington just signed a 20-year deal with solar pioneer Duke Energy.  AU’s Chief Financial Officer Doug Kudravetz says the long-term savings are substantial.

“We’ve done quite a bit of financial modeling and if brown power goes up five percent a year, we’ll save about $14 million, present value," he said.

Barclays Bank believes solar is a big enough threat to the status quo that it downgraded bond ratings for electric utilities.  The group's trade association, Edison Electric Institute, declined to comment.  But energy blogger Andrew Ricci believes the threat is overblown.

"Again, I think that the industry sees it as a drop in the bucket in terms of our overall power needs," he said.   And, he says he only sees that changing a long time down the road. 

While solar power makes up just a fraction of the world's total energy production, some believe the adoption rate will grow exponentially as climate change concerns drive the technology and consumers towards non-polluting and renewable resources like the sun.

You May Like

Karzai's Legacy: Missed Opportunities?

Afghanistan's president leaves behind a much different nation than the one he inherited, yet his legacy from 13 years in power is getting mixed reviews More

Secret Service Chief Under Fire for White House Security Breach

Julia Pierson faces tough questions from lawmakers after recent intrusion at White House, says: 'It is clear that our security plan was not executed properly' More

Frustrated, Liberian Students Want Ebola Fight Role

Thousands have volunteered to go to counties, rural villages to talk to people in their language about deadly virus More

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Malaysia Struggles to Stop People Joining Jihadi
X
Mahi Ramakrishnan
September 30, 2014 2:16 PM
Malaysian authorities say militant groups like the so-called "Islamic State" have used social media to entice at least three dozen Malaysian Muslims to fight in what they call "jihad" in Syria and Iraq. As Mahi Ramkrishnan reports from Kuala Lumpur, counterterrorism police are deeply worried about what could happen when these militants return home.
Video

Video Malaysia Struggles to Stop People Joining Jihad

Malaysian authorities say militant groups like the so-called "Islamic State" have used social media to entice at least three dozen Malaysian Muslims to fight in what they call "jihad" in Syria and Iraq. As Mahi Ramkrishnan reports from Kuala Lumpur, counterterrorism police are deeply worried about what could happen when these militants return home.
Video

Video Could US Have Done More to Stop Rise of Islamic State?

President Obama says airstrikes against Islamic State militants in Syria will likely continue for some time because, in his words, "there is a cancer that has grown for too long." So what if President Obama had acted sooner in Syria to arm more-moderate opponents of both the Islamic State and the Syrian government? VOA State Department Correspondent Scott Stearns reports from the United Nations.
Video

Video Treasure Hunters Seek 'Hidden Treasure' in Central Kenya

Could a cave in a small village in central Kenya be the site of buried treasure? A rumor of riches, left behind by colonialists, has some residents dreaming of wealth, while others see it as a dangerous hoax. VOA's Gabe Joselow has the story.
Video

Video Iran's Rouhani Skeptical on Syria Strikes

Iranian President Hassan Rouhani expressed skepticism Friday that U.S.-led airstrikes in Iraq and Syria could crush Islamic State militants. From New York, VOA’s Margaret Besheer reports the president was also hopeful that questions about Iran’s nuclear program could be resolved soon.
Video

Video US House Speaker: Congress Should Debate Authorization Against IS

As wave after wave of U.S. airstrikes target Islamic State militants, the speaker of the Republican-controlled House of Representatives says he would be willing to call Congress back into session to debate a formal, broad authorization for the use of military force. VOA’s Michael Bowman reports from Washington, where legislators left town 10 days ago for a seven-week recess.
Video

Video Ebola Patients Find No Treatment at Sierra Leone Holding Center

At a holding facility in Makeni, central Sierra Leone, dozens of sick people sit on the floor in an empty university building. They wait in filthy conditions. It's a 16-hour drive by ambulance to Kailahun Ebola treatment center. Adam Bailes was there and reports on what he says are some of the worst situations he has seen since the beginning of this Ebola outbreak. And he says it appears case numbers may already be far worse than authorities acknowledge.
Video

Video Identifying Bodies Found in Texas Border Region

Thousands of immigrants have died after crossing the border from Mexico into remote areas of the southwestern United States in recent years. Local officials in south Texas alone have found hundreds of unidentified bodies and buried them in mass graves in local cemeteries. Now an anthropologist and her students at Baylor University have been exhuming bodies and looking for clues to identify them. VOA’s Greg Flakus has more from Waco, Texas.
Video

Video Ebola Robs Liberians of Chance to Say Good-Bye to Loved Ones

In Liberia, where Ebola has killed more than 1,500 people, authorities have worked hard to convince people to allow specialized burial teams to take away dead bodies. But these safety measures, while necessary, make it hard for people to say good bye to their loved ones. VOA's Anne Look reports on the tragedy from Liberia.
Colonel Steve ‘Spiros’ Pisanos left Greece and came to the U.S. to learn to fly. He flew fighters for the Allies in World War II, narrowly escaping death multiple times.Colonel Steve ‘Spiros’ Pisanos left Greece and came to the U.S. to learn to fly. He flew fighters for the Allies in World War II, narrowly escaping death multiple times.

AppleAndroid

World Currencies

EUR
USD
0.7866
JPY
USD
109.25
GBP
USD
0.6139
CAD
USD
1.1120
INR
USD
61.428

Rates may not be current.