This a copy of my address to the Springfield City Council on the new solar farm.
I am torn on this proposal. On one hand I am 100% pro solar. We installed solar electricity at our house in May of 2010. Since that time we have produced 15 megawatts of electricity. Pro-rated over the life of our warranty, which is 25 years, that comes to $29 a month.we cover 100% of our electricity usage, plus we sell our extra back to CU for avoided cost, which isn’t much. CU charges extra for renewable energy, but doesn’t pay any extra for ours. I can’t control inflation, fossil fuel costs, or interest rates, but I can control the long term costs of producing our electricity. From my point of view it is a good investment. I don’t want to do anything to slow down the mainstream introduction of solar energy to this area.
On the other hand, in a Strata Solar press release, CU said that they have no upfront costs, it won’t have to raise rates, and the energy produced by this solar farm will mix in with the other energy sources. We shouldn’t act surprised when CU does things like adding this rider, which is in their own financial best interest. For instance, for what was spent on the new coal-fired plants,we could have installed $20,000 solar systems on every place in town. That would mean fewer coal trains coming through town and other costs associated with coal generated electricity, or costs of natural gas and fracking.
In some cities, solar community gardens have been installed, where citizens can install their solar panels(if they don’t have good solar exposure at their homes), and the solar production comes off of their meter at their home.
If CU was really interested what regular customers think, maybe they could have a customer representative on the board instead of just men and women from the business and professional community, which is what is called for in their bylaws.
Utility companies around the world are in a death spiral, as people figure the long term costs and returns of going solar. If customers install solar electricity, the fixed costs remain the same for the utility company. Rates will undoubtedly have to be raised, which will push even more customers into going solar. In the long run, the only people left on the utility will be the people who choose to remain, can’t afford to install solar, or that can’t afford their electricity bill anyway. If the base rate is raised too much, solar customers will choose to install energy storage, such as is happening in Hawaii and Australia now.
In closing I would like to say that I strongly disagree with the solar fee. It gives the illusion that solar electricity costs more. If all of the hidden costs are figured in to fossil fuel generation, such as legacy costs for the new power plants and(rumors of another one), environmental(disposal of ash, etc.), health consequences(asthma, and other respiratory problems), it isn’t really the case. It also makes it look like solar energy is just for richer people. How many people from lower income brackets can afford to add an extra $46 to their utility bill?
This is a delicate time for both CU and it’s customers. We are lucky here. We own our own utility company. We just need to exercise control over it and make sure it works in our best interest. Everyone acts surprised when EPA regulations come down that have been in the works for 30 or 40 years. It’s time to make the right choices; this one is a low cost choice.its time to get ahead of the energy mix while we can still have some good choices. I urge you to vote no on this rider. Thank you.