Green

Smart grid could mean your energy bill goes up

Here’s a novel thought — as homeowners slap solar panels on their rooftops and unplug from the grid, users of traditional energy could see their bills go up.

On the “Sultans of Storage” panel at VentureBeat’s GreenBeat 2010 conference today, Nat Goldhaber, managing director at Claremont Creek Ventures, made the case for locally-generated energy and storage. Solutions that can store solar and wind energy to power clusters of homes is a topic rife for innovation and investment, according to Goldhaber.

If more homeowners put solar panels on their roofs and batteries are adapted to store the excess energy, neighborhoods could disappear from the grid entirely — instead becoming clusters of off-the-grid energy.

But if it happens, users of traditional energy will inevitably pay more. “The price of electricity has got to rise for all those who will not have solar. So in the end, the poor are going to pay the bill of keeping utilities alive,” Goldhaber said. “Every house that goes off the grid is no longer somebody who the utility can charge.”

Of course, that vision for locally generated and locally stored energy faces its fair share of challenges. Ed Cazalet, vice president and founder of Megawatt Storage Farms, said utilities have been slow to adopt storage solutions because of the lack of government mandates to do so — although that’s slowly changing. But if the scenario Goldhaber envisions occurs, perhaps hiking rates on users of traditional energy would be a better motivator than any government mandate for people to switch to solar and energy storage.

[Top image from Flickr/Tracy O]