Solar energy threatening the future of US electricity industry?
For years, power companies have watched warily as solar panels have sprouted across the nation’s rooftops. Now, in almost panicked tones, they are fighting hard to slow the spread. Alarmed by what they say has become an existential threat to their business, utility companies are moving to roll back government incentives aimed at promoting solar energy and other renewable sources of power. At stake, the companies say, is nothing less than the future of the U.S. electricity industry. According to the Energy Information Administration, rooftop solar electricity – the economics of which often depend on government incentives and mandates – accounts for less than a quarter of 1 percent of the nation’s power generation. And yet, to hear executives tell it, such power sources could ultimately threaten traditional utilities’ ability to maintain the nation’s grid. “We did not get in front of this disruption,” Clark Gellings, a fellow at the Electric Power Research Institute, a nonprofit arm of the industry, said during a panel discussion at the annual utility convention last month. “It may be too late.”