I’ve read with great interest the recent article in the Ark Valley Voice justifying cost increases for net solar users by SDECA CEO Paul Erickson. I appreciate the information provided in the article as well as recent SDECA letters to homeowners which provide the various justifications for “unburdening fixed infrastructure costs”. The co-op’s position of sharing the fixed cost burden of infrastructure across all their customers sounds laudable, however this local increase reflects a very disturbing trend across the country which is undermining the move to a sustainable green energy policy which is necessary for curbing the effects of global climate change.
As a native Coloradoan and a net solar energy user, I as well as most of my neighbors, have a growing concern over the increased number and severity of forest fires, Pine beetle infestation, reduced water availability and degraded public health due to rising average temperature change due in part to fossil fuel energy production. Net metering has facilitated the deployment of rooftop or standalone solar in 47 states to help address these emerging crises.
Unfortunately, Florida, California and other states are now considering legislative changes to increase costs to solar customers which are promoted and written by energy companies as noted in a recent Tampa Bay news article, which details a large local energy company’s agenda to charge solar users more based on the argument that solar customers were not paying their fair share of infrastructure costs and regrettably it sounds remarkably similar to the recent SDECA position that was justified by a recent undisclosed analysis. As these kinds of revelations become more public, SDECA should be cognizant of maintaining their reputation and customers’ trust and provide more details of the assumptions and limitations of their analyses which justify their new cost redistributions.
Another key need for transparency is the fact that one can find a multitude of analyses, done by respected organizations that have different conclusions than SDECA analyses which suggests a need to clarify analysis scope and assumptions is needed. Some examples include the Lawrence Berkley National Laboratory analysis which concluded that net metering programs have very little impact on total electricity costs when distributed solar energy comprises less than 10 percent of total electricity generation; even at 10 percent use, rate impacts are relatively modest, see (https://emp.lbl.gov/publications/putting-potential-rate-impacts).
Using Mr. Erickson’s numbers, SDECA has 2.8 percent of its customers on net metering and just 1 percent of those are those pesky seasonal homeowners that have a second home and appear to be highlighted and in part, justify SDECA’s cost concerns. Moreover, new research from Michigan Tech University suggests that homeowners with rooftop solar are actually subsidizing their neighbors who don’t have solar, see (https://www.mtu.edu/news/2021/02/shining-a-light-on-the-true-value-of-solar-solar-power.html).
Given the growing occurrence of for-profit energy suppliers influencing legislation to shift costs to solar users to maintain profit and the conflicting analyses of varied scope and assumptions which have differing conclusions, it seems prudent for SDECA to provide more details on the assumptions of their in-house analyses, contrast and justify their conclusions against other similar rural electric association (REA) efforts which are implementing solar, as well as contrasting their analysis with other efforts that have different conclusions.
Residents in Chaffee County are protective of our natural resources, and we are blessed with abundant solar resources and want to do our fair share for a better environment, and we should ask our energy co-op suppliers, who work for us, to champion those values and maintain our trust. I would strongly encourage our co-op to be more transparent in their analyses as there are alternate evaluations that present differing results as well as emerging legislative agendas by for-profit energy companies promoting similar cost redistributions arguments which could negatively undermine the co-op mission before simply implementing the “unburdening” and raising prices to solar users.