The Hayride

Foster Campbell’s First Time With The PSC Gavel And How Solar Power is Screwing You

Foster Campbell’s First Time With The PSC Gavel And How Solar Power is Screwing You
February 15
20:36 2012

The first meeting of the Louisiana Public Service Commission with Foster Campbell as chair took place at Louisiana College in Pineville Wednesday with what was surely to be the most controversial agenda item–a push to decrease profits of privately owned utility companies–being tabled until next month’s meeting.

Campbell feels that investor-owned utility companies make too much with a 10.5 percent return on equity and wants it brought down to around 8.5 percent. Utility companies, of course, disagree and believe that their guaranteed profit margin helps them invest in providing service and is a good thing.

When I asked Campbell why he is putting off having the PSC vote on looking into changing the established rate of return, he simply said that the item wasn’t ready to be voted on yet. He really didn’t give me any reason why it’s not ready.

Representatives from utility companies at the meeting are being tight-lipped about the whole thing and I guess we will have to wait until the next meeting to see what develops.

There was another item of contention at the meeting, however, that companies did speak out about—how the government incentives to get people to use so-called green energy is harming utility customers who can’t afford to have solar panels put on the roof of their homes.

The discussion was about the subsidization of net-metering cost by non-net metering electric utility customers.

To put it in layman’s terms, it was about how poorer people are being screwed by richer people using solar energy.

Net metering is a system in which utility companies are forced to buy extra power produced by homes and businesses you see with the big shinny solar panels on their roofs. The problem is that buying back the power generally costs more than the electricity is worth.

According to some reports, it could cost a utility company $10-$20 to read a second meter—the one showing power sent back to utility companies —and process a monthly check for people with solar panels.

That might not seem like a lot of money, but it adds up when you consider that the power sent back to utility companies might be only worth a few cents.

It even gets worse when you tack on the cost of grid operations infrastructure involved—which is passed on to people who don’t have solar power.

Louisiana passed net metering laws in 2003 and federal laws have been enacted since then mandating that utility companies offer net metering options to customers using green power.

As much as 80 percent of the cost to install roof-top solar panels can be deferred by government subsidies and tax incentives in Louisiana.

Even with that, it still costs thousands of dollars for a person to equip their house with solar panels—meaning that rich people do it and the cost is passed along to poor folks who can’t afford it.

Here is Mike Heinen, CEO of Jeff Davis Electric Co-op talking to the commission about the problem:

Campbell, unimpressed, gave Heinen something of a verbal smack-down—telling him that electric cooperatives are nothing but the product of government subsidies since they were created through low-interest federal loans back during the Roosevelt New Deal years.

Besides, solar panels are a good investment and don’t pollute like those nasty coal consuming utility plants that provide power to all the costumers who have to pay for those who use clean energy.

I apologize for the annoying clicking in this video. I’m not sure what was causing it. Maybe it was my brain getting ready to explode listening to all of this:

Not all utility companies were build by FDR—not that it matters to rate-payers— and their customers are also having to pick up the tab by the government’s push for green energy.

In the next video, Entergy officials address the PSC about the same problem of poorer utility payers being forced to pony up money for richer people who can afford to power their homes with solar power.

Currently there is $250,000 that’s being transferred to other customers in the New Orleans area and that number could soon be more than a million bucks, they say.

Maybe if Entergy would have their profits reduced, rate payers would feel a little better about their bills going up to subsidize green energy, but I doubt it:

As you might have guessed, nothing was resolved concerning this issue. That’s not surprising because this is a problem with no easy solutions with the messes elected officials have gotten us into with the unintended consequences of the green economy.

I would love to have a world in which we could burn water for fuel, but this exchange at Campbell’s first PSC meeting is indicative of my problem with the government touting green solutions to save our economy and the planet.

Whether it’s the V-Vehicle debacle, the Sundrop Fuels plant being built in Alexandria or powering our homes with solar panels, I remain a skeptic.

It seems that green solutions haven’t yet been proven viable without taxpayers having to shell out money and people being harmed–those who can’t afford solar panels for their homes, in this case.

Democrats, who placate environmentalist voters by using green energy nonsense like this, are always saying that the poor are the ones hurt the most by Republican policies.

Well, Dems and Republicans who buy into all of this claptrap—this one’s on you.

 

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4 Comments

  1. Anonymous
    Anonymous February 15, 21:04

    What kind of morons ever bought insurance from Bananas Foster’s agency?

  2. EMcCalla
    EMcCalla March 09, 13:18

    I am the State Coordinator for Louisiana Solar Energy
    Society, and we would like to respond to some incorrect information in
    TheHayride.com’s article, “Foster Campbell’s First Time with the PSC Gavel and
    How Solar Power is Screwing You.”

    The article states that, “Poorer people are being screwed by
    richer people using solar energy.”  This
    is completely incorrect.  Solar energy
    actually lowers all ratepayers’ electricity. 
    Solar energy systems provide clean energy to the grid at peak load times
    which reduces the amount of electricity that must be purchased from out of
    state at typically higher rates. 

    A second incorrect point in the article is the explanation
    of “net metering.”  The article states, “Net
    metering is a system in which utility companies are forced to buy extra power
    produced by homes and businesses. …Buying back the power generally costs more
    than the electricity is worth.”  Utility
    companies do not “buy” extra power.  Louisiana
    is a net metered state, and the “net metering” agreement under the Louisiana
    Renewable Energy Development Act states that, for any excess power generated,
    the utility company will credit the homeowner’s account.  Therefore, no power is “bought back.”  Also, solar energy is worth more than traditionally
    produced electricity because of its reduced emissions and sustainable
    properties. 

    In addition, the article claims, “It could cost a utility
    company $10-$20 to read a second meter.” In reality, “net metering” does not
    utilize a second meter.  Louisiana
    residents utilize a single meter which is back-fed to account for the energy
    produced by solar. 

    Finally, in reference to the already incorrectly explained “net
    metering” system, the article says, “It even gets worse when you tack on the
    cost of grid operations infrastructure involved—which is passed on to people
    who don’t have solar power.”  The cost of
    adding solar is only incurred by the solar homeowner.  There is no cost that is “passed on” to
    people without solar.

    As we have shown, TheHayride.com’s article, “Foster Campbell’s
    First Time with the PSC Gavel and How Solar Power is Screwing You,” clearly has
    many flaws.  Contrary to what this
    article claims, solar energy offers many benefits for homeowners as well as for
    the economy and environment.

  3. Find the Common Ground
    Find the Common Ground March 10, 22:51

    Hi Tom,
    Thanks for your article. I’m glad you are helping to raise awareness and keep a healthy and worthwhile discussion happening. There does seem to be some confusion about the facts in this matter that I hope I can help to clarify. Here are some facts that are worth considering:
    - Solar power is converting from a purchase to a leasing business model. This means no upfront investment and immediate reduction in electric costs. This means, not just for the wealthy any more 
    - When homeowners produce their own power, they are given 100% credit for the energy they put back into the grid. This means they receive the same rate that the utility charges you. Saying the utility pays more than the energy is worth is saying you and all utility customers are paying ‘more than its worth.’ If this is true, than your bone to pick is with the utility and not the home with solar
    - When homeowners produce their own power, they help to lower the load on the grid and reduce the need for constant upgrades to the outdated power-delivery system. This lowers everyones electricity costs!
    - The net-meter that the utility replaces the old meter with, for homes with solar, takes 10 minutes to install and is able to be read without the utility technician getting out of his car. There is no ‘extra meter’ for them to manage.
    - For our whole lives, we’ve payed the electric company whatever they charged, no matter how much they ask. We haven’t had any control or any other options. Up until now electric utilities have maintained a monopoly on the market.
    - Solar allows for people, for the first time, to control the source of their energy and the price they pay for it (once you have it installed, the price doesn’t go up)
    - The subsidies for solar are helping our country to gain independence from our dependance on foreign oil. 
    - The resource extraction/electricity producers in this country have received far more government subsidies than any solar program
    - Solar subsidies are benefiting utilities through the transfer and accumulation of renewable energy credits. This makes it so utilities don’t have to invest in their own solar and wind farms (and increase your uncontrollable electricity costs even more).

    Ultimately Tom, you are right. The number will go from $250,000 into the millions rapidly. The support for renewables will go up as the price for them continues to go down. In the future, the technology will be just like satellite tv or cell phones. Everyone (with sun on their roof) will have them. 

    NOT FACT, MY OPINION:) This trend is a good thing. The real challenge is finding how to make this technology available to as many people as possible, as soon as possible. 

    Thanks and God Bless You,

    eric

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