In the July/August issue of “Currents,” the Sulphur Springs Valley Electric Cooperative (SSVEC) newsletter, CEO Creden Huber continues his and SSVEC’s campaign of attacks, intimidation, and disinformation regarding rooftop, or “distributed generation” (DG) solar systems. The attacks are on SSVEC’s owner-members who own or lease their rooftop solar systems. The intimidation is directed at SSVEC owner-members who have been considering installing such systems. The disinformation is being distributed to all SSVEC owner-members about those systems and their effects on the co-op’s bottom line. This needs to stop.
There are so many false and misleading statements in Huber’s article that I can’t address them all in one op-ed. In this piece, I’m going to look at the statements that affect DG solar system owners and lessees. In Part 2, I’ll discuss how Huber is mischaracterizing how these systems affect SSVEC’s bottom line.
Let’s look at Huber’s statements and compare them to the facts—facts which come from SSVEC’s own rate case filings with the Arizona Corporation Commission (ACC), the ACC staff’s own filings, and conversations with senior SSVEC staff members.
Huber warns potential rooftop solar owners that they could be paying a $50 per month “service availability” fee if the ACC approves their rate request.
Fact: This is what SSVEC wants. There is no guarantee it’s what the co-op will get.
Fact: The ACC staff has proposed raising the service availability fee for all customers by the same amount the co-op proposed for non-solar customers, $25 per month.
This is a blatant attempt to intimidate potential future solar owners and lessees to keep them away from installing such systems.
Huber says the average cost increase for residential customers will be only $3.22 per month.
Fact: This only applies to customers who do not own or lease DG solar units.
Fact: Averages can be misleading. I’ve run the numbers for different usage amounts and a clear trend emerges. The less electricity you use, the more your costs will rise. A regular residential customer who uses only 250 kilowatt-hours (kWh) per month will see their costs, before taxes and fees, rise by almost $9 per month.
Fact: That same user, if they own a DG solar system, could see their costs rise anywhere from $26 to $38 per month, as much as 86 percent!
This is another example of how Huber and SSVEC are misleading all of their customers while at the same time using the threat of punitive future rates to try to keep more customers from installing rooftop systems.
Huber claims that certain DG solar owners will be “protected” for 20 years by “grandfathering the net-metering tariff.”
Fact: That 20 year period would start when a given system was installed. So an owner who installed their system seven years ago will only benefit from this “protection” for 13 years, not 20.
Fact: The ACC has not approved SSVEC’s proposed April 15, 2015, cut-off date for this “protection.” It amounts to a retroactive rate change, something the ACC has refused to do in the past.
This “benefit” to certain rooftop solar owners is both a half-empty promise and a warning to those who installed their systems after that date, or who might install one in the future, that they will not reap that benefit, whatever it might be. Further, how many SSVEC customers even know what a “net-metering tariff” is? Using unexplained technical language is a classic deception technique.
SSVEC’s tactics are a case study in how a business should not treat its customers, especially when those customers own the business! Think about it: would Wal-Mart threaten to raise prices on customers who also shopped at Kmart or Target? Would Safeway warn customers that if they shop at the farmer’s market, they’ll be punished? Of course not!
SSVEC is being a bad corporate citizen by demonizing and threatening to punish some of its own owner-customers. It’s time for that to stop.