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Rock the Rooftop: Wellinghoff's Plan to Set Solar Straight

The case for utilities to own solar generation behind the meter within their own regulated service territories.

return they will see significant growth potential. And most installers that I've talked to would be really happy with that. Margins become less important when you are assured of more project flows. Let's put this in perspective: regarding the cost of customer acquisition, there have been different estimates, but most of them fall within a range of about 50 cents to a dollar per watt. That's the acquisition cost alone. That represents anywhere from 10 to 25 percent of the cost of a residential system.

WELLINGHOFF: It could be anywhere from three to five thousand dollars per system, just for the acquisition costs. Those costs can be driven down substantially by having utilities stepping in, finding the customer, doing the financing, basically just handing them over to the installers to put in the system.

FORTNIGHTLY: You mentioned that your idea would require some new legislation in various states. Are you going to try to play a part in that?

WELLINGHOFF: We certainly would be interested in providing information to anybody ... assisting people in any way possible....

But once the model is out there, it provides opportunity for distribution utilities or others who might want to move forward with it.

FORTNIGHTLY: And you will be the guiding theoretician?

WELLINGHOFF: Well, also standing by to potentially assist entities who would like to move forward.

TONG: The idea is not to make this purely theoretical. We have kept the concept at a level high enough so that it could be applicable to a large number of states. Now, when you look at a specific state, there will be some details that will need to be hammered out, and we'll be prepared to help whoever is interested.

But right now, the conversation is stuck on net metering. Our goal is to expand the scope of the dialogue to something that's a lot more constructive.

FORTNIGHTLY: You say you wrote some rules in Nevada. You'd be prepared to write new legislation to make this happen?

WELLINGHOFF: Absolutely.

FORTNIGHTLY: So the death spiral is not here yet?

WELLINGHOFF: No, not yet. We're trying to find an alternative.


Editor's Postscript: Look for the full white paper in the August issue.

Bruce W. Radford is editor/publisher of Public Utilities Fortnightly. Contact him at