Utility companies and utility regulators see a problem coming, and there’s no easy answer. The problem is utility companies that are required by law to serve every home and business. Presumably every one of those places has an account and pays for the gas or electricity, as well as the existence of the network. But what if big customers start using solar or wind for electricity? They’ll no longer be billed, but the company is still going to have to provide a service line to their address.
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“There are people that are going to be left at the end of that line who can’t put the solar panel on their house, they can’t afford to put the wind turbine up, they can’t do the geothermal, and so are you going to leave them with all of the bills for all of those lines that are out there if customers leave the grid? It’s a huge issue,” says Doug Scott, chairman of the Illinois Commerce Commission.” It’s not fair to charge people or businesses for an electrical or natural gas system that they’re not using, but it’s not fair to charge other customers for keeping the network in place for service to those addresses, should it ever be needed.
Scott says the use of solar power to generate electricity has gone up 4,000 percent over the last seven years.