CEC and Solar Energy...Net Metering
"The reports of my death are greatly exaggerated."
Some readers will be familiar with that quote from Mark Twain, written after the American author's death was prematurely announced.
Imagine my surprise when one of our members recently informed me that solar energy will soon mean the end of electric utilities as we know them.
Now I've seen advertisements for spinning your meter backwards or have the electric utility send me a check...maybe it's time to stop and give it a think.
We have in fact a number of customers installing roof top solar panels and requesting net metering. It is clear these customers have in fact reduced the amount of energy they purchase from the Cooperative.
Renewable energy offers the hope of clean energy and as good citizens we embrace the role it plays. Regulated utilities, including Columbus Electric, have mandates that require 10 percent of all energy consumed by our members by 2020 to come from a renewable resource. In partnership with our wholesale power supplier, Tri State G & T, we are poised to meet that timeline.
Although there is a growing importance of renewables, they are limited because they are only available "when the sun shines" and "when the wind blows". These technical and physical limitations make them less reliable and more expensive. Few, if any of the installations on our system have batteries storing energy for those times when the renewables are not producing energy. As a result they still access the electric system and take energy.
Is our industry doomed...? Only if every one of our members is able to cough up thousands of dollars to install photovoltaic panels and batteries. The reality is most are unable to afford the typical residential installation, which averages from 3 to 5 kilowatts and ranges in cost from $10,000 to $25,000. Granted with tax credits one is able to reduce the cost, but you still have to come up with the money and you still have to use the Co-op's electrical grid for supplemental energy. The reality is electricity is essential to our members, helping ensure our quality of life. The conclusion I come to is the Cooperative's mission of providing affordable energy is as important today as it was 70 years ago.
You Get the Credit
Operation at cost is part of the cooperative difference
Electric cooperatives aren't like other utilities-you, as a consumer and a member own a portion of the business. One benefit of that membership involves the allocation of excess revenue, called margins, in the form of capital credits.
Electric co-ops operate at cost- collecting enough revenue to run the business but without the need to raise rates to generate profits for distant shareholders. When Columbus Electric has money left over, it's allocated back to you and other members as capital credits. When the co-op's financial position permits, the co-op retires, or pays, the capital credits to members in cash or as a bill credit. This year the Cooperative will retire $252,000 to those of you who were members in the year 1975. Allocating and retiring excess revenue to members helps distinguish cooperatives from other types of electric utilities.
Capital credits are so-called because members provide necessary capital to the cooperative for it to maintain and operate the electric distribution system. These monies decrease the need to raise rates or borrow all the money necessary to pay for infrastructure. After a number of years, as financial conditions permit, we retire a set amount of capital credits.
These margins are the only real source of equity for electric cooperatives, so it is essential for a co-op to maintain the right balance between retiring capital credits to its members and retaining sufficient equity on our balance sheet. We do our best to strike that balance in an effort to provide you rate stability.
This is just one more way that we looking out for you!
Energy Efficiency Tip of the Month
|Summer is right around the corner! Have you changed your home's air filter? Filters get loaded with more and more particles as they do their job. This actually has the effect of making them more efficient, but it also increases resistance and reduces airflow. Remember to check filters once a month.|
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