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Power Companies Are Both a Problem and an Opportunity for Marketing Solar Energy

Ground mounted solar array
Ground mounted solar array
Photo by Duane Prokop

One of the interesting aspects of distributive solar energy, which is a fancy way of referring to rooftop solar power systems that more and more homeowners are installing, has been the reaction of utility companies. They are decidedly hostile to the idea, believing, rightly, that every kilowatt that a home solar power system generates is a kilowatt that they are not selling to the customer.

For over a century power companies, which are often managed monopolies, have enjoyed a cushy business model. They can rely on a certain level of demand for their product - electricity - which allows them in turn to invest a lot of money in power plants that might have a 30 year lifespan. This model is threatened if more homes and businesses can get off the grid. Demand for the utility's electricity will sooner or later start to decline. This will especially be true when power storage systems, such as batteries or microturbines, are developed so that excess electricity generated during peak periods can be stored for use during the night.

Remember that utilities, except in certain states such as Texas where partial deregulation has taken place, are not accustomed to competition. Their knee jerk reaction is likely to be to lobby governments, both state and federal, to remove subsidies that are designed to lower the cost of installing solar systems. In the meantime, as more customers move off of the grid by going solar, they are likely to raise prices for customers who remain.

As with most problems, this provides something of an opportunity for the marketer of solar energy systems. The trick is to convince utilities that if they can't beat solar energy, why not join in solar energy? A utility company could start to market solar systems of their own, perhaps offering a payment model based on the amount of kilowatts generated by the system, thus allowing them to install the systems for free or for a small, nominal fee. Therefore, for the utility company, solar power changes from a threat to a new way to make money in a rapidly changing energy environment.