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Discovery about power bill’s high cost is shocking

When it comes to electricity generation and transmission, I don’t know a kilowatt from J.J. Watt. But I do know this: If the government gets involved, someone’s going to get shocked.

Indeed, imagine my surprise when I discovered that my power bill — as well as yours — is higher because we’re subsidizing the installation of solar panels on our neighbor’s roof thanks to government meddling in the energy market.

A recent in-depth article published by the Las Vegas Review-Journal detailed the growing popularity of home solar systems as a way for people to cut their power bills. However, the only reason these solar systems are even close to affordable is because the federal government is picking up a large chunk of the purchase price.

Indeed, the article points out that you and I, through our tax dollars, are paying for “roughly $9,000 off of a $25,000 system.” That’s bad enough, but thanks to a 2003 law passed by the Nevada Legislature, NV Energy is also forced to provide rebates to solar system homeowners that ratepayers who can’t afford solar systems are paying for.

And then there’s this nasty little thing called “net metering.”

Net metering is how those with rooftop solar panels are able to cut their power bills at our expense. Electricity, you see, needs to be constantly generated and transmitted to your home. It can’t be stored like a can of beans and opened anytime you need it. At least not without installing some extremely expensive battery systems.

So while solar panel users generate more than enough power for their personal use during sunny days — and sell any surplus back to the power company at full retail price for a “net” reduction in their power bill — they still must be hooked up to the power company’s grid at night and on cloudy days.

And even though the power company can purchase or generate electricity at far lower prices from traditional power plants than what the government forces it to pay to your neighbor with the rooftop solar panels, it doesn’t have any choice. Buying electricity from your neighbor at inflated prices is mandated by law.

In other words, your electric bill is higher than it should be because your power company is forced by the government to pay an above-market price for electricity to your neighbors who can afford the high cost of taxpayer-subsidized solar systems.

“Net metering, as currently implemented,” the American Legislative Exchange Council accurately explains, “is a regressive tax subsidizing the rich by picking the pockets of the poor.”

Look, I’m not against solar power. But I am against paying more for it just so my well-to-do neighbor can artificially pay less for it. Time to turn the lights out on this government meddling in the energy market.

Chuck Muth is president of Citizen Outreach, a conservative grass-roots advocacy organization. He can be reached at www.muthstruths.com.

Editor’s note: Boulder City residents would not be affected by NV Energy policies. According to Rory Dwyer, electric utility administrator for the city, residents with solar panels who produce more energy than they need each month can bank that surplus as a credit on their account for as many as 12 months for their own use.

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