Mark D Larsen
Several months ago, I joined the Electric Generation, a relatively new organization that purports to encourage the transition to electric vehicles. I genuinely appreciated the group’s posts about the EV industrty and community. However, several weeks later I discovered that its key sponsor was the Edison Electric Institute (EEI), a conglomerate of utility companies that is pushing an agenda diametrically opposed to the goals of the majority of EV owners. To illustrate what that agenda entails, let me describe three scenarios for readers, and ask them to ponder how they would react.
As a citizen concerned about the havoc that climate change is having on our natural resources, you decide to take steps to reduce your water consumption. You install lower-volume toilets, change your shower heads with more efficient models, buy a high-efficiency clothes washer, even supplant your thirsty lawn with landscaping that only requires drip irrigation. By implementing such measures, you manage to lower your water bill.
However, your water company now informs you that they intend to henceforth impose a penalty surcharge on your monthly bill. Why? They publically claim —via news outlets, internet, customer inserts— that, because you are no longer buying as much of their product (water), you are not paying your “fair share” of the company’s “fixed” infrastructure costs (pipes, pumps, storage tanks, treatment plants, drains, sewer system), and instead are shifting those costs to poorer neighbors who cannot afford to do the same.
What do you think? Should you have to pay more for using less water?
Natural gas prices continue to rise, so you decide to take steps to lower your monthly bill. You exchange your water heater for an on-demand model, replace your gas stovetop and clothes dryer with electric equivalents, even install a geothermal heating system. By implementing such measures, you manage to lower your gas bill.
However, your gas company now informs you that they intend to henceforth impose a penalty surcharge on your monthly bill. Why? They publically claim —via news outlets, internet, customer inserts— that, because you are no longer buying as much of their product (natural gas), you are not paying your “fair share” of the company’s “fixed” infrastructure costs (drill rigs, fracking chemicals, compressors, gas lines, meters), and instead are shifting those costs to poorer customers who cannot afford to do the same.
What do you think? Should you have to pay more for using less natural gas?
Fed up with our dependence on foreign oil, you decide to trade in your gas-guzzler for a plug-in hybrid. You opt to buy a Chevy Volt, so that you can drive up to about 40 miles on electricity before its gasoline generator kicks in to extend the full range up to 300 miles. Because your commute matches the U.S. average of 37 miles per day, now you only need to visit the gas station once a month instead of every week, and have significantly lowered your fuel costs.
However, the next time you pull into the gas station, the owner now informs you that Chevron intends to henceforth impose a penalty surcharge on you to fill up. Why? They publically claim —via news outlets, internet, customer inserts— that, because you are no longer buying as much of their product (gasoline), you are not paying your “fair share” of the company’s “fixed” infrastructure costs (oil rigs, pipelines, refineries, delivery trucks, storage tanks, fuel pumps), and instead are shifting those costs to poorer drivers who cannot afford to do the same.
What do you think? Should you have to pay more for using less gasoline?
Believe it or not, this is precisely what my utility Rocky Mountain Power, the Edison Electric Institute, and the Electric Generation are trying to impose on customers who lower their electric bills by installing solar panels. ALEC (American Legislative Exchange Council) is the prime mover-and-shaker behind this agenda, with funding from the Koch brothers, to discourage renewable energy so that they can continue to do “business as usual” with their dirty, polluting fossil fuels.
When I first learned about this assault on solar, I was deeply disturbed to hear from another EV advocate that the Electric Generation was involved. This was unthinkable to me, since I knew that a large percentage of EV owners also power them with solar panels on their roofs. I therefore wrote to the organization to ask if it was really true. Here is the relevant portion of their answer, which I later sadly discovered is nothing more than a boilerplate statement circulated among EEI and ALEC members:Because of the way that most net metering policies are structured, customers who use solar PV panels are credited for the power they sell to electric companies usually at the full retail electricity rate. This rate includes all of the fixed costs of the poles, wires, meters, advanced technologies, and other infrastructure that make the electric grid safe, reliable, and able to accommodate solar PV panels and other DG systems and that support technologies like electric vehicles. Through the credit they receive, net-metered customers effectively are avoiding paying these costs for the grid. As a result, customers without DG unfairly absorb the costs of the grid through higher utility bills.
To not mince words, this claim is a bare-faced lie. Solar homeowners do pay for as much infrastructure as they actually use —just like everybody else. Sure, we are granted credits for the kWh that we put into the grid by day, which we can then use to help pay for whatever kWh we take from the grid at night. What the Electric Generation, EEI, Rocky Mountain Power, ALEC, and the Koch brothers conveniently forget to mention, however, is that the utility sells our excess clean kWh to our neighbors at the same full rate that includes all the infrastructure costs for fuel, power generation, poles, wires, transformers, etc. This slideshow presentation clearly proves that such is the case with my own solar array. What “infrastructure” am I not paying for, with either dollars or kWh?
In point of fact, I actually produce more kWh than I use, yet Rocky Mountain Power confiscates any accumulated kWh credits for free at the end of March every year, zeroes out the tally, says “Thanks a lot, chump,” and sells them to my neighbors for pure profit —since they haven’t burned one lump of coal or generated one kWh for the sale. To date, that amounts to well over $600 that I have “donated” to their coffers since installing my solar array. That they now want to fine me every month for making that donation adds insult to injury...!
It is bad enough to make such false claims, but it is downright despicable to then try to pit customers against each other by resorting to class warfare tactics. The bottom line is that all solar homeowners pay for as much electric infrastructure as they actually use —just like is the case for all consumers with gasoline, natural gas, and water bills. When we use more of all such products, we pay more; when we use less, we pay less. And rightfully so.
I have shared the calculations in the above infographics with Rocky Mountain Power several times, and they have yet to respond, most likely because they simply cannot defend their smart-ALEC agenda when concrete examples are staring them in the face. Math doesn’t lie.
I also answered the Electric Generation’s boilerplate justification to point out its flaws. They have never responded either. I can only conclude that EEI members’ only interest in promoting EVs is to sell the electricity to charge them, but —gasp!— heaven forbid owners generate their own “fuel” on their roofs. They thus desire to slow down and discourage the interrelated transition to rooftop solar any way possible, even if it means disseminating untruthful propaganda with socialist appeals to ironically maintain their capitalist profits.
I have thus rescinded my membership in the Electric Generation. I suspect that other EV owners will now want to do the same. When push comes to shove, we are not just part of an EV Generation: we are also in the Solar Generation, the Renewable Generation, the Climate Generation, the Zero-Emission Generation.
It's a clean job, but somebody’s got to do it.