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VOICES / A FORUM FOR COMMUNITY ISSUES

Self-Generated Energy Can Help

February 03, 2001|PHIL REIMERT

The root cause of the power system failure is an increase in population coupled with increased power usage per capita. In the short term, we are all just going to have to muddle through as best we can. However, we need long-term corrective action to prevent this from happening again.

The power companies' solution is to build more fossil-fueled megawatt power plants. A better solution would be to stabilize the power grid with more resident-owned sources of power generation.

Although the 1996 bill that deregulated electrical power has turned out to be a fiasco, it also contains what could well be its own salvation. One section set up an "emerging renewable power buydown account" that established an account of $54 million, funded by ratepayers of the three largest investor-owned electric power companies, to partially offset the cost of installing residential emerging power generation technology, i.e., solar power, fuel cells, wind generators, etc. There is also a requirement for the energy companies to accommodate "net metering," whereby excess power generated by a residential system will actually feed power back to the grid, causing your meter to run in reverse. As owner of a system, you would only pay for the net difference between the energy drawn from the grid and the energy you supplied to the grid. Some suppliers actually pay you for your excess power fed to the grid although they are not legally required to.

Much information is readily available on this on the California Energy Commission Web site: www.energy.ca.gov/reports/; search for Emerging Renewable Resources Account Guidebook, Part 3. For the federal plan and rebates, see the U.S. Department of Energy Million Solar Roofs program at: www.eren.doe.gov/millionroofs/.

Why not pass legislation to require every new or substantially remodeled house to include its own solar electrical system? That would ensure that power matched population growth.

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Phil Reimert lives in Manhattan Beach.

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