Turns out, it’s not.
Yesterday, I had a bit of a rant on Facebook about an email / survey I’d gotten from my power company. I thought about it a while and figured I needed a follow-up or maybe even a post for my friends that don’t follow me on social media.
I’m sure you’re well aware that I’m all about saving the environment and recycling, etc. Also, note, I’m all about driving my car too fast, and using a hair dryer – but not at the same time. Here in Florida, we’re familiar with our annual power-loving wake up call in the form of outages brought to us by whatever letter of the alphabet that particular storm’s name falls under! They can be for an hour or a week – and it can test the mettle and ingenuity of our Southern citizenry. Ever back-feed a fuse box from a generator? (a total no-no) Ever bar-b-que a once frozen pizza,…then you know what I mean. That said, we tend to have a certain respect for our power company’s employees…but maybe not the top brass.
Power companies,…or power company (since there really is just one) use the better part of their discretionary cash almost literally burning it in their plants. Some of that comes from additional charges deemed appropriate by the PSC (Public Service Commission), which is not made up of anyone I’d label ‘public’ and they certainly aren’t there to service my needs. Big Power’s latest adventure in spending was finding new and innovative ways to get clear deed to the governors mansion. Done. (I think it’s been a lease-to-own for many years)
This is what we face here – so any energy related enterprise has got an automatic uphill struggle with public relations – the struggle is real. This leads me to my recent ‘rant’. I’d received an emailed survey from my electric cooperative. Not power company. Cooperatives are a bit different from The Power Company in that we are a collection of members who buy power from the big guys. They’re a non-profit and give us a little share back at years end. This group does good things that they really don’t have to. There’s a ‘Round-Up’ program. I round up my bill to the nearest dollar and it goes to a fund to help economically challenged people. They have a ‘Budget-Plan’, where they average your 12 month usage and bill you the same amount every month. That is a Godsend for the fixed income folks!
They love solar, and landfill methane stations, trash plants – they get as much as they can from renewables, currently only 7% but its a start. And as much as I like to bitch about utilities, I haven’t yet had a serious issue with them.
I flipped out! My FB post went something like this…
“I just received a ‘survey’ from our electric cooperative Withlacoochee River Electric Cooperative, about interest in solar. This was the worst non-survey EVER. It was 2 questions, first a statement about how solar is expensive, and would I be interested Y/N? (YES!!)
Then this one, “Currently, solar energy costs more than other fuels like coal or natural gas to generate electricity in Florida. However, in an effort to invest in renewable energy and as part of our ongoing environmental stewardship, Seminole Electric Cooperative, Withlacoochee River Electric Cooperative’s wholesale power provider, will be investing in a pilot solar project later this year. The energy generated from this solar project will be offered to cooperative consumers in the form of kilowatt-hour (kWh) blocks of solar energy.
Would you be willing to pay an additional $5.00 per month per 100 kilowatt-hour block of solar energy?”
WTF!! Who would even be able to reasonably answer that question…I’m a reasonably intelligent person. I pulled my electric bill. Last month we used 1,967 KWH (Killo Watt Hour), so to use solar that is FREE, they would tack on $5.00 x 1967 = $9835 for ONE MONTH. Oh, ‘block of solar energy’….What’s that? How is that measured? Oh, no, they don’t tell you that – it’s a yes or No, thank you.
This is NOT a survey. This is their ticket to stand in front of government officials and say , “See, nobody wants solar!” Another excuse to bury their collective heads in the sand and ignore the fact the we live in The Sunshine State, the land of potentially inexpensive energy.”
Yes, I was so angry I never bothered to check my math prior to posting. Lucky for me, I had bright people in my wake and posted their figures…all of which it turn out were wrong as well.
“$5 per 100 kwh would be $5 x 196.7 for your bill… I think. So, if you were just willing to spend $983.50 more per month for the free stuff then our world wouldn’t end as we know it. Gawd! Thanks for sharing though. I’m thinking as a share holder, you may want to draft up some love and send it to the board of directors. PLEASE???”
But wait….don’t go ! This is where it gets interesting.
No sooner did I have a conversation with my husband about this, where he reminded me about the newspaper article of late, about the energy gestapo looking to strip us of our right to sell power back to the electric company, than the phone rang.
Let me back up – if you have a solar array to fuel your home and the extra to feed the grid the power company MUST buy it from you. Thank you Jimmy Carter. Yes, this law goes back that far. It’s my understanding that those poor beleaguered power companies have decided they need to rent the lines to us and charge us to carry the power. Bull#%@&!!! Like a New Jersey toll road, that’s been paid for long ago but, they still feel they need to collect to pay the toll collectors! Their p.o.s. lines loose 50% of the juice from the plant to my house anyway – fix the damn lines – then come talk to me!
Ahhh – talk to me…. I did mention the phone rang. My FB post got some attention quick ! On the line was the WREC Manager of Member Relations, David Lambert. He spent 20 minutes with me as we hashed out my questions and I explained why their survey sounded so sinister. By the end, I was telling him how he needed to ‘sell’ this idea to the public. He even read aloud the FB response he was posting to make sure it was exactly what we discussed. He was a very good customer interface, in an engineer sort of way.
It went a little like this… (ok, no, it went exactly like this)
“Thank you for you comment! I would like to clear up any confusion concerning our survey. As you stated last month you used 1,967 Kilowatt Hours of energy. You were billed $231.66 for this energy. If you used the same amount of kilowatt hours and purchased a “block of solar” which is 100 kilowatt hour your bill would be $236.66 an additional $5.00. If you were to purchase two (100 kilowatt hour blocks of solar) your bill would increase an additional $10.00 to 241.66. In essence your are getting to purchase power for your home from a renewable resource without the expense of putting up solor panels on your roof. We believe it is a winning solution for our member who can afford the additional without impacting those who cant. Currently 7% of the energy you receive comes from renewable resources. WREC is a leader in incorporating renewables into our generation mix and we look foward to adding more solar in the furture. I hope this clears up any confusion and please share this with your friends. Should you have additional questions please feel free to contact me directly at 352-xxx-xxxx. Sincerely, David Lambert , Manager of Member Relations”
So…In a nutshell, this isn’t ANYTHING like what I’d thought. This gives my household the option to join the renewable revolution without spending $30,000 for a solar panel system. Which I’d have to live with for decades before it’d pay for itself. Yes, my house would need 9 panels – I’m glad I have a big roof. Never the less I’d do it in a minute! Now, this scenario doesn’t mean I have free power, I’m still paying for and maintaining the panels. So the electric still costs me money even if every watt comes from the sun. Or…
Since my house used 1,972 kwh of power last month, and lets say I’m so in love with the polar bears and have copious amounts of extra cash (as if I was the power company), I could theoretically, have at $5.00 / 100 kwh, 1972/100=19.72 x $5.00 = $98.6 added to the existing bill (of $231.66) and have ALL of the Beal Household power coming from renewable sources (i.e solar). Systems that I don’t have to maintain, upgrade, or tell my homeowners policy holder that I have bolted to the roof. Here’s another question I have for them,… carbon credits? Do I get chits from the government on my taxes for that $98.6/mo I spent? Hmm, I’ll have to consult a professional on that one.
That’s crazy – yes. But, back to reality, if I spend (donate) $5.00 a month extra, WREC can procure on my behalf 100kwh of solar power at their commercial rate, cause I’m a member and they like me. Important note here, it’s MY choice to do this – the people who could care less, can continue to care less. Does it make a dent in my bill? No – not yet. Multiply that ‘solar contribution’ by how many members they have and now we’re talking about a significant renewable energy fan base! And that my friends is when the pendulum starts to swing the other way.
Five bucks,…. a latte,…..for the polar bears.