No Free Rides… Yeah co-ops, same to you!

For a dose of common sense, check out this link: “MO Cooperatives and Net Metering – Get the Facts Straight.”
We published it to address similar deceptive articles that have alarmed co-op members… like “Will my neighbor’s solar make me pay more?” It’s a lot of good information to help you know what is really happening with solar in your co-op.

“No free rides” is the subject of a recently printed article in a Missouri Electric Cooperative newsletter. Their main concerns stated are:

  1. Electric and hybrid vehicles aren’t fairly charged for the use of public roadways, because they don’t buy as much gas as the rest of the vehicle owners.
  2. Solar powered homes aren’t fairly charged for their use of the grid. They argue that solar needs the grid and doesn’t pay for the basic maintenance of the grid.

Some actual facts:

“Paying their fair share” is something that rarely happens, because it’s often unavoidable. That said, progress requires frequent reevaluation of all accounts. Some old ways are ideal, and then some new are worth adopting. Who shops for low miles-per-gallon? That’s crazy, right?

The average car can top-off their gas tank out of state and drive clear through Missouri without fueling up again.

Motorcycles and scooters get better miles per gallon than hybrid vehicles.

Amish drive horses.

What about the people who bike to work?

The same “fair share” theory applies to electricity, but not like your co-op may persuade you to think…
We recently installed a grid-tie system for a couple who could easily go off-grid. Their bill was always the minimum payment because they weren’t using enough power to raise it above that minimal payment. After all the drama with the utility company, they were asking for a quote from us to go off-grid. They felt a responsibility to go solar for the environmental reasons, just because it was available over fossil fuel options. But they also saw value in sharing the excess, even though they wouldn’t be fairly compensated for the power they fed to the grid. All the egos and resistance from their “grid” made them really turned off to the grid altogether.

Why are co-ops out there fighting for gas guzzling vehicles and expensive power? Not all co-ops are. Some embrace the innovative technologies and install a co-op funded solar garden. That is a shared expense for the members to unite in securing low cost power for their co-op. If that’s not your co-op, you are hanging with the wrong crowd. Your rates are not secure. (click on that link at the top for more info on this topic)

Batteries are getting more efficient and less expensive every single year. Tesla is unable to manufacture their Powerwall units fast enough to meet the demand. This is progress. It’s not going to disappear – it’s going to explode. It’s exploding right now. So get on board or move out of the way. Nobody is going to fight to pay more than necessary – especially for things they rely on every day.

Low miles-per-gallon and gas-only cars are a thing of the past. People want high miles-per-gallon, less money spent on electricity, and less moving parts to break when they consider their options. Do you realize that all-electric cars don’t require an oil change? They don’t use oil. They have an extra trunk under the front hood!

Co-ops don’t seem to get it. When they slander the cutting edge technology, they metaphorically shoot themselves in the foot.

SOLUTION:

Co-ops can invest in a co-op solar field to secure a low rate for all members. The cost of installing it can be shared by all members, and the benefits can be shared by all members. If they don’t like the competition with privately owned solar, they will have to keep current to avoid losing business over new technology.

Just to clarify some lies about solar in that newsletter (so you don’t sound stupid when you talk about it to your friends & family):

  1. Solar does NOT have to be grid-tied. The grid makes batteries optional (this is the only reason people like to tie into the grid). You see, when you don’t have batteries, the grid takes the excess power and then sells that solar power down the line. When batteries are used, the power is stored and used later – all on site. That’s when the person is off-grid and doesn’t support the co-op!
  2. Inverters do NOT need the grid to be turned on. Watch a solar grid-tie get turned on! You will see the power running the inverters before anything touches that system to the utility box.
  3. Solar doesn’t quit working when the grid is malfunctioning. Grid-tie systems have an automatic shutdown so it won’t harm anyone working on the power lines through the connection to the grid, but that’s not a limiting factor. That’s an extra feature to keep people safe. We don’t want anyone zapped working on the “down city lines” while the solar panels are still producing power and FEEDING THE GRID POWER. That’s right, privately owned solar panels feed the grid. People down the line use power from their neighbor’s solar panels. How did that get missed in the Cooperative’s review of this “unfair” situation?
  4. Articles like these are encouraging solar owners to want to go off-grid. Now that would take away their support for the grid. If they tie into the grid, they pay meter fees and support the grid with local power.
    That said, solar fed to the grid is given a sort of “credit” – and that is at a lower rate than what retail would be for the power they gave the grid. If the system covers all their power needs, then the co-op keeps their “credit” after a year of it not getting used.
    Other co-op members buy solar power down the line at a higher rate, giving the co-op a profit margin on the solar power. That’s called an asset. It’s a money-making tool for the cooperative. That’s the cooperative’s benefit, not the solar owner. And the co-op didn’t even invest in that solar power equipment.
    It’s actually one thing that can easily be made fair – buying and selling power at retail prices (and with money not unused “credit” that they end up dissolving when the customer doesn’t need co-op power).
    Co-ops instead rob people of their investment and then accuse them of “not paying their fair share” and getting a “free ride.” Co-ops have the free ride. And if they don’t stop flapping at the gums over “fair share” and “free rides”, they’re going to loose customers and risk shutting down. Why? Because they don’t want to embrace progress.

    The co-op business model in Missouri has been successful because they try to provide what members want (electricity) at a price they can afford (which will definitely go up if they don’t go solar at the co-op level).

    What do you need co-ops? SOLAR!

    Plug into the sun everyone!

MO Cooperatives and Net Metering – Get the Facts Straight.

MO electricity cooperatives have been talking about solar for a while now. Recently they have published articles to discourage people to sign a net metering petition. Before you do that, be sure you know how it will hurt the cooperative.

Co-ops say: “Solar is going to make you pay more for your power.”

It won’t. That petition is actually designed for a more fair method of accounting for all the extra (solar) power that co-ops & electric companies are annually profiting from. Solar owners continue to contribute their equal share for “operating costs” monthly – even if they don’t need to buy any power from them.

The $30/month “meter fee” keeps the lines maintained and other operational costs covered. Solar Owners pay for the new meter to accommodate the solar production. They also continue to pay the $30/month meter fee even if they don’t use more power than they generate themselves.

Not everyone buying solar does it for the financial benefits. Sure, most do because it fixes their energy rate to buy the solar panels & equipment (rather than buying per watt from the utility company). Others do it for environmental reasons. Some Solar Owners don’t ever use enough power to go above that $30/month meter fee before installing solar. Should you charge people more because they didn’t turn their lights on enough? Of course not. That argument is ridiculous (and straight off a co-op publication).

Clearly this is just new territory for our local co-ops. Like anything new, it needs to be rationally embraced. Solar isn’t going to “go away” if you give it the cold shoulder.

Co-ops urge: “Tell them you are in favor of affordable and reliable electricity – not subsidies.”

Since oil and gas dominate the subsidies… and you don’t want to be a part of subsidies… you’ll want to see how low solar is on a subsidies chart…

Solar is affordable: What is your plan for energy coming from coal plants who haven’t got an affordable plan to meet EPA standards? Have you asked them how they plan to continue to give you affordable energy? Do you notice your utility rates creeping up on you lately?

Solar is priced competitively with local electricity rates. Get a free bid from us and we’ll show you exactly how this works. It pays off (we will show you the price per watt while it pays off) and then gives you free power. It’s a set rate that won’t sneak up on you, and comes with equipment and workmanship warranties. We call that affordable.

Solar is reliable. Just ask our off-grid customers who live in freedom without co-op drama in their mailboxes. Do you really think that electric companies and even the US Government are putting up solar because they think coal & gas are the most affordable & reliable?

The sooner co-ops acknowledge this, the sooner we can all work together and make the most of power available from all sources to all customers. 

Solar tied to your grid reduces the need for coal power when the sun shines, because it gets passed down the line for others to use.

How concerned is your co-op about the net metering law?

  • Anyone installing solar has to get their project approved. The net metering outlines the process as well as what happens when power is generated in excess of what that customer needs.
  • Co-ops tend to make up rules as they go and don’t stick to the net metering agreement as made up by state standards. They should pre-approve systems, not after the fact. And they should inspect and approve post-installation within 30 days. They make it a slippery slope of ridiculous timelines instead of following the law. Customers waiting 30 days is hard enough – let alone MONTHS as some cooperatives often drag the process out to be. For coops to appear concerned about laws regarding net metering is a joke when you know how little they actually follow net metering right now as it is.
  • What is really going on here? Are co-ops so “dog-eat-dog” that they’ll make up emotional arguments to make sure solar doesn’t impose on their energy monopoly?

All co-op members are concerned about the same thing – PAYING MORE THAN THEIR FAIR SHARE.

Since you’re all members of the co-op, why not work it out?

What Solar Owners like about it now: When they produce and use equal portions in a month, they get retail for their power made and it levels out. In other words, if they make as much as they use, they don’t owe for electricity used. They only owe when they use more than they make. Then they pay what everyone else pays.

What Solar Owners want to change: When they give more than they take in a month, they want it to roll over past that month. They made a personal investment and they aren’t asking for any free handouts. They still plan to pay the membership fees. They just don’t want to give it away at 3 cents a watt only to take it back at 8 to 13 cents a watt (that’s what’s happening now).

Someone down the line got THEIR SOLAR POWER and paid retail for it. It’s power the coop didn’t buy from the coal plant, and they charged retail to their customer for it. They just want credit to roll over. That’s it!

If it doesn’t get more fair, solar advisors will start recommending a different option… Disconnect and go off-grid so you stop paying for your own power generated.

Today, solar advisors recommend grid-tie for most everyone. That’s right, they encourage Solar Owners to feed your utility line with their own investment. It eliminates the need to buy and store batteries, and offers the excess energy to the surrounding community, so less generated power is wasted. If people don’t get greedy on the receiving end it might stay that way.

Here are some links for further information:

http://www.vox.com/2016/2/26/11116230/rural-electric-co-ops-solar: This is an article about co-ops and their shift to going solar over formerly “cheapest” contender, coal.

http://energy.gov/eere/office-energy-efficiency-renewable-energy : This is the governing body over all things energy related.

http://www.renewmo.org/net-metering.html : Renew MO is all about net metering being fair, and gives some great insight to how this actually works.

http://psc.mo.gov : Public Service Commission is who governs all electric companies.

http://www.dsireusa.org : If you want to know more about energy efficiency and upgrades, rebates, incentive programs, tax rebates, grants, and loans look here. To save time, click on your state, then “apply filter” then continue to follow down whatever you are looking for. It may be solar, or it may be rebates for a new energy star appliance.