AVCSEF Joes House

There continue to be false statements made by our Sangre de Cristo Electric Association that have confused its members: SDCEA repeatedly says that solar generating (net metering) members get to unfairly exchange cheap energy made during the day for expensive energy bought at night from Tri-State (our electricity supplier) through a grid that they supposedly do not pay to support.

The Truth

Once and for all, the Ark Valley Coalition for a Sustainable Energy Future would like to put this misunderstanding to rest. SDCEA does not pay solar members or give them credit for more than their energy is worth. There is no money going from SDCEA’s pockets into solar generating members’ pockets.

In fact, if you do the math, it is the other way around. Unfortunately, this seems to be lost in the messages coming from SDCEA.

Net Metering

Here is a real-life example of how net metering works at a solar generating house in our valley. For simplicity, let’s say that this is Joe’s house:

It Adds Up

Joe puts ~8000 extra kWh on the grid each year. Of these, he asks for ~6000 kWh back (meaning that he runs it through the 1:1 net metering transaction above). At the above profit rate (+$.09/kWh), SDCEA makes a total of $540 in revenue from the transaction.

At the end of the year, SDCEA is required by Colorado law to reimburse Joe for the extra 2000 kWh that he produced but did not use, so the coop sends Joe a check for a little under $40 (< $0.02/kWh) for the production surplus.

However, it already sold those unused kWh to his neighbor at the retail rate of $0.13/kWh, totaling $260. So, SDCEA actually made another $220 off of electricity generated on Joe’s roof.

Altogether, the energy Joe produces earned SDCEA $760 over the year.

Scale It Up

There are nearly 550 people like Joe providing electrical energy to the grid in the SDCEA service area. Each year SDCEA can sell that electricity and make in the range of $375,000 to $425,000 from electricity generated by solar members. That pays for a lot of grid support. 

Plus, each solar member also pays the service availability fees (~$40 per month at current rates) like any other member of the coop, even when their solar panels make all the electricity they need. That’s another $264,000 a year that solar generating members pay to support the infrastructure of the coop.

The Bottom Line

Solar members do not ask the coop to spend its own money (or other members’ money) to send them electricity “for free.” Even if a kWh costs more at night during peak demand, SDCEA GOT ONE TOTALLY FOR FREE DURING THE DAY. That more than covers the purchase of a nighttime kWh to serve a solar-generating member. Any difference stays in SDCEA’s pockets.

Plus, many solar members have installed solar panels to anticipate the quickly developing electrification of transportation (plug-in hybrid and fully electric vehicles) and conversion of home and water heating from gas or propane to electricity. As a result, electricity use in the future is likely to increase as they electrify and move away from fossil fuels.

As the upper Arkansas valley’s energy broker, SDCEA stands to benefit from this projected increase in electricity use if it can learn to work with, instead of against, its local energy-generating members. Many of these members are also adding battery storage, which, if connected to SDCEA’s grid, could add significant value to help reduce peak energy payments to Tri-State.

So, What’s the Problem?

What SDCEA actually doesn’t like is that solar members do not buy very much energy from the co-op (like seasonal homeowners and low energy users) and they provide some electricity to their neighbors without involving Tri-State.

SDCEA fears the day when many more of its members will be making their own energy and the agreement SDCEA made to purchase power from Tri-State no longer is sustainable or necessary.

Today’s rapidly evolving energy landscape demands that SDCEA change with the times, but changing business models takes work, foresight and imagination, an effort which SCDEA seems unwilling to undertake.

In fact, imagine a world where the valley has lots of solar and geothermal and wind generating members feeding batteries that power everyone, like Australia is doing. Our valley could be totally self-sufficient. And that is what scares the leaders of the electric coop that we all own.

AVCSEF directors

Tom Plant

Rich Shoemaker

Deb Hannigan

Sue Greiner

Iris Herder

Sandy Long

Mike Wrigley

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