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Renewable Energy Becomes a Utility Lifeline

The cash, and profit from these operations doesn't fall within the regulations of state governments. AES Energy Storage, with the same corporate parent -- AES (AES) as Indiana's IPALCO utility -- has a 32-Mwatt battery in West Virginia controlling the output of a wind farm. It makes money.

Not every utility company is on board with this. Municipally owned CPS Energy in San Antonio is trying to cut what it pays homeowners for solar power, citing increased costs. Most of Texas' grid is isolated from that of the rest of the country, as seen in this Google Sites map.

While the profits from renewables can be high, so can be the risk in fighting them.

Pacific Gas & Electric (PCG) is trying to fight off a challenge to its monopoly status in San Francisco from the municipally owned CleanPowerSF. As the cost of solar power plunges below that of other grid energy, the number of customers producing their own power rises, and the city wants to harness this to compete against the utility monopoly.

The San Francisco Bay Guardian calls the result a "dirty war", and it is the ultimate nightmare for utilities. Failure to buy renewable power, and to plan for it, risks a utility's long-term survival as a monopoly provider. And there are lots of ways to gain unregulated -- free -- cash flow from making, selling and managing renewable power.

Against that reality, ideology is powerless.

At the time of publication, the author was long GOOG and AAPL.

This article is commentary by an independent contributor, separate from TheStreet's regular news coverage.
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