On the EDge: Council’s proposed solar charges are preposterous

OPINION – It’s getting easier to be green.

Finally, after years of research and development, outfitting your home with solar power is well within reach of the average household.

The benefits, of course, are plenty, from not only an environmental but financial standpoint.

But, the St. George City Council is looking to cut those benefits.

It believes that those who have gone green have removed some green from the city coffers; more specifically, from the municipal power providers. They argue that it is “inequitable” for those who have gone solar to continue receiving the incentives the council established to encourage them to do so.

In other words, the council is reneging on its original deal with residents.

Under terms of its original net metering policy, the city agreed to buy back any unused power generated by homeowners who have switched to solar power.

Instead of looking at this as a windfall and rewarding those residents, the council now plans to punish them because, well, if anybody’s going to make a buck off the power supply it should be the city, right?

Wrong.

The nation has faced an energy crisis – from fossil fuels to electricity supplies – for decades now. Advocates of solar and other alternative fuel and power generation have lobbied long and hard over the years for the government and big business to climb aboard, pointing out the environmental hazards of coal- and nuclear-powered plants. They were, however, always shut down with the admonition that it was too expensive.

This line of reasoning, of course, was always suspicious, with those on the green side of the debate insisting that those on the governmental side were being too heavily influenced by Big Oil, Corporate America, and the green they could stuff into their own bank accounts by owning and regulating municipal power companies.

It was, and remains, a lie that the switch to alternative fuels and power is too expensive and that not enough people are interested in it to make it work. If that were true, why are so many people who reside in one of the most conservative cities in the most conservative state in the Union going green?

They have learned that it helps the environment and saves them a few bucks, and there’s nothing wrong with that, except that the City Council now wants to remove these residents from some of those bucks, even if it means going back on its word.

It’s how it all works, you know.

In fact, I guarantee that when the council approved the incentives years ago it figured it would all look good on paper and had no concerns about loss of revenue at the power plant because, well, only those dirty, smelly, left-wing hippies would invest in a tree-hugger concept like alternative energy and there weren’t, and still aren’t, as a matter of fact, that many dirty, smelly left-wing hippies in St. George.

It turns out, however, that even the bright and shiny, well-coiffed conservatives with a little gray matter between their ears are realizing that, indeed, there is a better way to power their TVs, computers, and myriad other electrical devices than to burn coal dredged from the bowels of the Earth or play with the poison created by nuclear power plants. Plus, they can save a few bucks in the process.

But, the city wants to stick it to them, claiming that it is inequitable for those who remain permanently attached to the power grid to have to make up for the incentives paid to those who have turned to the sun for electricity.

You know what?

There should be an inequity at play here.

Those who are willing to invest in this planet deserve to reap a few benefits, while those who refuse to do so, either through ignorance or ideology, pay the price.

And, let’s be clear, ignorance and ideology loom large in all of this.

There was a post on social media the other day, claiming that the falling oil prices – translation: lesser gasoline costs – can actually do damage to the economy. Not because it helps lower the price of goods, which is a blessing for the already overly burdened poorer classes, but because the rich have invested so heavily, in one way or another, in Big Oil.

Basically, it was the latest political diatribe from the right, which for a few years now has been blaming President Obama for higher gasoline prices that resulted in higher cost for consumer items because everything you buy at one time or another takes a ride on a truck. Now, however they are blaming him for lower gasoline prices, which could put a dent in the pocketbook of the rich who have invested so heavily in Big Oil.

The thing is you cannot have it both ways.

This issue will almost assuredly be passed by the City Council, just as legislation will be approved at the state level to renege on the promises made to those who took the risk of investing in solar panels to power their homes, back before it was a cool thing to do and way before it was the financially practical thing to do. Our elected leaders are too deep in the pockets of special interests – from Big Oil to Big Pharma to the biggest “big” of them all, Big Banking – to ever do anything in the public’s interest that doesn’t line their own pockets.

They’ve got the money, they get to make the rules.

As odious and preposterous as this idea is, it isn’t unique to the St. George City Council.

I remember when Cedar City, through a series of bad water deals signed with the Washington County Water Conservancy District, found itself in a crunch.

The city wrote a strong ordinance and changed its fees, charging people who used more than their fair share of water a fairly high monthly fee.

As it turned out, the residents became very water efficient and many took to xeriscaping their properties.

Before long, water usage had dropped so dramatically that the council found itself in a quandary. Residents had taken the ordinance to heart so strongly that water department revenue dropped dramatically.

So, what happened?

The council passed another ordinance, hiking water prices to a level to make the department profitable again.

In other words, residents were penalized for doing the right thing.

Now, it appears, St. George residents will be punished for doing the right thing.

I’ll tell you what.

I don’t want to be anywhere near these guys when karma comes knocking on their doors.

I guarantee it will be rather messy, but it’s the price they’ll pay for sabotaging efforts to protect the environment and those who respect it.

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Ed Kociela is an opinion columnist. The opinions stated in this article are his and not representative of St. George News.

Email: edkociela.mx@gmail.com

Twitter: @STGnews, @EdKociela

Copyright St. George News, SaintGeorgeUtah.com LLC, 2014, all rights reserved.

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45 Comments

  • Big Guy December 16, 2014 at 8:00 am

    Economics has never been liberals strong suit and Ed is no exception. Let’s debunk some of the bunk above.

    Start with solar power. Let’s suppose that every home in St. George installed solar power, every one. Under today’s rules, every homeowner would expect to sell his/her excess daytime power to the City and “net out” to a near zero electricity bill. But the City would be unable to use the power: there is no current technology for storing significant amounts of power, certainly not on that scale. And there is no feasible way to push that power back “up stream,” especially if everyone on the planet converted to solar power. But Ed, the sun doesn’t shine at night. Wind turbines? The wind is sporadic too, Ed. Instead everyone in the City would need “evil” fossil fuel or nuclear power at night and on cloudy days.

    Ed, a modern power generating plant is a massive investment, whether made by government or private industry, and is designed to last for decades. The investment must be sized to peak power requirements, whether that peak is needed all day or only at night. If everyone in town expected to “net out” their utility bills, paying nothing for electricity, who would pay for the investment? And once such an investment is made, it can’t be liquidated and the money returned: it’s there whether it’s used or not.

    Now let’s look at individual homeowner solar power economics. I’ve looked into it for my home. It’s getting close to worthwhile…but only because the Federal government offers a 30% tax credit on installation costs. A credit is applied against income tax due and is much more advantageous (for homeowners, not for taxpayers) than a deduction. Far fewer homes would have solar power without this “gift” from the taxpayers: the 30% tax credit is a fundamental part of a solar power sales pitch. Will solar installations ever be able to stand on their own? The cost trend is good but we’re a long way from there now.

    Obama has been rightly criticized for doing all he could to obstruct the oil and gas fracking revolution. In spite of his best efforts and the wailing and moaning about fracking from environmental extremists, the U.S. has been supplying a dramatically increasing portion of its own needs. So yes, before this revolution began to bear fruit, Obama was criticized. He now has the gall to take credit in speeches for the increased production!

    Big oil and gas companies will survive today’s dropping prices very nicely, thank you. Oh, they’d rather have higher prices, but they’ll survive and thrive again. But while consumers enjoy lower gasoline prices (I do), it’s oil and gas industry workers who will suffer. Jobs will be lost and that will ripple through the economy. Economist Joseph Schumpeter coined the phrase “creative destruction” and that is what is happening now. On the whole as a country, we’re better off but some will struggle in the mean time.

    Ed, you ruin what remains of your credibility when you rant about things you don’t understand. Stick to social issues.

    • All In Call December 16, 2014 at 10:33 am

      Economics? Net zeroing means you need less. If every house in St. George needed less, the city would need to buy less from Rocky Mtn. Power. i.e. Putting juice back on the line. Savings.
      Years back in California, Edison used water coming out of the Sierras for hydro power sources. Communities along those rivers installed net zeroing circuits to hook up to Edison. Thus increasing the power supply. Edison didn’t want to compensate the towns, saying their using our water source against us. The courts said; Your Water? are you nuts? Pay up, you greedy bas___ds.
      In St. George case, they would use less supply from Rocky Power because of the SUN. i.e. they buy less. Duh.
      Watch what the politicians do. Are they with the folks (or) are do they like to be wine & dined/ reelection contributions?

      • Big Guy December 16, 2014 at 11:28 am

        ALL IN CALL ignores the end game when a large percentage of users go solar and which I address above. Eventually fossil or nuclear power will only be needed at night and on cloudy days, but it will be needed. “Conventional” fuel usage will be lower, but the fixed capital cost of power plants and transmission lines and the operating costs for personnel will be little changed. Solar users will be generating more power than is needed during daylight but will be drawing on conventional power at night. This is not “net zero.” The city has the right idea since solar users need to pay their share of conventional power fixed costs, costs which will be reduced only by lower fuel usage, even if used only at night.

        The city is dealing with an unintended consequence of government action: in this case, overly aggressive promotion of solar power. Unintended consequences are increasingly common as “big government” gets involved with more aspects of our lives. As this happens, market solutions are replaced by political solutions. Ed’s screed above is a good example of political considerations overriding economic reality. Liberals: you asked for it, you got it.

        • All In Call December 16, 2014 at 1:18 pm

          The city get paid for every new power line they have to install/ projected maintenance cost,etc. from the people that build through fees they pay. (water, sewer line, schools,etc., also have impact fee too).
          Solar power dumped back on line during the day more than pays for the juice used at night. Battery maintenance is the home owner’s responsibility. Now if the city has to pay for the home owners maintenance cost too, that changes the equation.
          Now if the solar home uses more power than their system can produce, they should pay the going rate for juice like everyone else. (kw used) No free rides.
          Now Electric/ hybrid vehicles are a different subject. Roads have to be maintain through gas taxes/ registration fees. A higher registration fee for a electric/ NGas sounds fair to me. Just thinking off the top of me pee brain.

          • Bender December 16, 2014 at 3:52 pm

            ALL IN CALL you seem to not understand the difference between solar with battery storage and solar without battery storage. Most homeowner systems coming on line do not have battery storage. The panels are tied to the utility grid and the grid serves as the battery. These “grid-tie” systems do make impacts on the utility’s system which are not currently being reimbursed.

  • joe king December 16, 2014 at 8:16 am

    Ed, do you ever have anything positive to write about. everything you write is nag nag nag. just state the facts and keep your opinion to yourself

    • My Evil Twin December 16, 2014 at 12:38 pm

      Um Joe? He writes an opinion column. He is not a news reporter. While I disagree with much that Ed has to say, I absolutely believe he has the right to say it. Same thing with Bryan Hyde. (Except I tend to disagree with Hyde much more than I do Kociela.)

      • Ih8twit December 16, 2014 at 4:28 pm

        Yeah like We could ever agree with anything you post… But you do have the right to your worthless rantings

        • My Evil Twin December 16, 2014 at 6:06 pm

          Run along and play now, sonny. The adults are having a conversation that is way above your intelligence level.

  • Lee December 16, 2014 at 8:16 am

    “I don’t want to be anywhere near these guys when karma comes knocking on their doors.”
    I know its been been said before… A great solution to your problem would be moving away. Preferably to California, they know how to penalize 🙂

  • Wilbur December 16, 2014 at 8:59 am

    For a city with as many enlightened Dems as there are, only some 60 city residents have elected to put solar on the rooftop. Just not worth it seems to be the prevailing opinion so far.

    Until we have CHEAP battery storage, solar power is going not very far.

    What a rant you got there, ED!

    (Que Enviro-Naziis in four…three…two…)

  • All In Call December 16, 2014 at 9:11 am

    Ed, being a conservative independent fella, your logic usually makes zero sense to me.
    Then you come up with how big government (city in this case), want ‘Equality For All’ in putting the screws to the earth concerned folks for back door cash.
    Good article Ed. Wish you felt the same regarding the Obama Care issue. Lies are lies

  • mo ferguson December 16, 2014 at 9:47 am

    Ed states, “…the council is reneging on its original deal with residents”.
    Ed, where were you when Solyndra reneged on its deal with the U S taxpayer when they took off with HALF A BILLION OF TAXPAYER DOLLARS? (Yes, that would be 500 MILLION). And that’s just one “green” company that Obama gave millions of tax dollars to and went out of business…..would the taxpayers get any of that money back? So just how much is your power bill in socialist Mexico? You should consider returning to Mexico and staying put, as that country’s socialistic policies are more in line with YOUR ideas.

    • KOOLAID December 16, 2014 at 10:37 am

      What about Bush’s economic stimulus plan that cost taxpayers almost $1 trillion which essentially went for bonuses to CEOs and bankers? After that $1 trillion taxpayer burden, the economy tanked. Bush’s legacy: Start wars and destroy the economy.

      • Teacher December 16, 2014 at 2:17 pm

        That may have been the most insightful comment from Koolaid I’ve ever read. Good job.

        • Koolaid December 16, 2014 at 4:25 pm

          Thank yuh very much!

      • All In Call December 16, 2014 at 2:28 pm

        Why don’t you go protest in a park or in one of Al Sharpton’s
        protest marches, you 99% follower of stupidity. Pay your Obama Care premium and go take a nap.
        (Just kidding Not so KOOLAID) not

  • Holger December 16, 2014 at 10:13 am

    I was initially excited to read this editorial. It had a lot of potential. then it veered off into some odd rants, and by the time the author wrote “the biggest “big” of them all, Big Banking”, I stopped reading. Too bad, a lost opportunity.

  • KOOLAID December 16, 2014 at 10:34 am

    Think of how Utah plans to penalize people for having fuel efficient cars by raising the taxes on gasoline. Hurts those who don’t have fuel efficient cars. Such is the way of your tax and spend Utah Republicans.

    • Wilbur December 16, 2014 at 10:57 am

      Dems will rush to sign the bll, en mass.

      • Koolaid December 16, 2014 at 12:38 pm

        I said UTAH which is run by tax and spend Republicans. How many Democrats do you know of in any Utah Government position? Weren’t all Democrats deemed evil with some revelation in 1978 after consulting the IRS and money Gods?

    • Bender December 16, 2014 at 2:03 pm

      “Think of how Utah plans to penalize people for having fuel efficient cars by raising the taxes on gasoline.”
      .
      Gas taxes have gone down in real terms since they were last raised in 1997. The $0.25 per gallon (state) tax in 1997 is now worth only $0.17, a 30% decrease, in current dollars. Believe it or not gas taxes are not a “librual” conspiracy to deny you freedom KOOLAID. You drive the roads, you need to pay your fair share. None of us are paying our fair share right now. Right now is the perfect time to fix the tax so that we can properly maintain and expand our road system.

      • Koolaid December 16, 2014 at 4:27 pm

        Yet, Conservatives and Tea Party people will scream “Obama is raising gas prices!!!!” when it’s their very own state government (i.e. UTAH GOP) that is responsible for fuel tax increases which raise those prices.

  • sagemoon December 16, 2014 at 10:50 am

    Right on, Ed, right on. I am a big fan of solar power. It seems stupid to me to ignore the sun as an energy source whether you are a private individual or a municipality. Instead of punishing residents, why is the city not finding new ways of creating revenue? How about some city sponsored dances?

  • Logic Gal December 16, 2014 at 11:17 am

    What everyone does not realize with the reduced gas prices is that there is an oil glut. Why? So that Middle Eastern Countries can get their control of oil back. They put so much oil in the world wide market it drops the price. When they do this, it makes it unprofitable for American companies to compete and they drop out of the world wide market. Once smaller oil companies drop out, the Middle East takes back control and raises prices. Remember what happened in the 1970’s.

    • Bender December 16, 2014 at 1:52 pm

      And our oil remains in the ground for later extraction when prices are higher. It’s self regulating.

  • Joe Smith December 16, 2014 at 11:31 am

    Since gas is so cheap I’m gonna trade in my 10 ton dodge ram for a 50 ton Ram, and when gas prices go back up to $4 a gallon under the next republican president I’m gonna whine about how “libruls” are ruining america. Ya’ll remember which president had the highest gas prices in history. That’s right, it was Little Bush the Jr.

    • Big Guy December 16, 2014 at 12:49 pm

      No president, Republican or Democrat, controls oil prices. Neither Jimmy Carter nor George W. Bush are to blame for the high price of oil during their administrations. The knock on Obama is that he has actively opposed the fracking boom that has dramatically lowered oil prices and implicitly favored shipping oil by rail with his opposition to the Keystone Pipeline. Lower oil prices do make it harder for him to sell his pet uneconomic green energy solutions.

      • Joe Smith December 16, 2014 at 2:47 pm

        haha, you just don’t like to deal in facts do you? I just don’t know how to reason against you guys and your right-wing radio gospel. It would be funny if it wasn’t…

        • Koolaid December 16, 2014 at 4:31 pm

          Weren’t Bush and Cheney both oil oriented? Remember, Cheney was former Halburton CEO. Do you think he used his position to take care of his former buds? Who do you think was a huge recipient of tax dollars during the Bush/Cheney 8 year war in Iraq? Look up the questionable payouts to that company for war costs, the same company associated with Gulf Horizon (biggest oil spill in US history).

      • Bender December 16, 2014 at 3:56 pm

        And by “actively opposed the fracking boom” you mean Obama calling for appropriate regulation and enforcement of hydraulic fracturing so that aquifers are not destroyed?

      • Ih8twit December 16, 2014 at 4:47 pm

        Why do people keep thinking that the president of the U S is the one that sets oil prices the President has no control over oil prices.. I’m sure the evil twit will have some useless rant on this

        • GladImNotWhite December 16, 2014 at 5:18 pm

          Well, because Obama is black. folks around here have no one else to blame. Makes you wonder what the dialog would be if Romney was our President. The oil prices would still be the same…but would it be his fault?

  • Dumb Engineer December 16, 2014 at 11:32 am

    The opportunity for savings with solar power is to reduce the peak power usage. Additional power plants need to be built when there is not enough capacity to handle peak capacity, and who wants the expense of building more power plants. Happily in St. George the peak power usage occurs when the most solar power is available, namely during hot summer afternoons. If we could have enough solar power installed to reduce that peak usage then everyone could benefit. As has been mentioned there could be issues if we had too much solar capacity, but we are not close to that situation.

    • Bender December 16, 2014 at 12:38 pm

      Matching peak load to peak solar generation may involve encouraging homeowners to change to a more westerly orientation of solar panels. Peak air conditioning loads are not completely in phase with power generated by (fixed) solar panels oriented due south.

    • Big Guy December 16, 2014 at 1:01 pm

      We do have the advantage of solar power knocking down peak demand on summer afternoons. That makes it a good thing…if it’s economically sound. Even then, our expected population growth will use up existing conventional power plant capacity but solar could minimize the need for additional plants.

      I agree that we are not close to having too much solar capacity. All the better that the city address the need cover conventional power fixed costs now when only a few solar users are impacted then to wait until a large number of users feel “cheated” by an additional monthly fee and demand an uneconomic political solution. No telling how that would turn out.

  • Me December 16, 2014 at 12:04 pm

    Somebody call Ed a whambulance.

  • My Evil Twin December 16, 2014 at 12:44 pm

    I do not believe there is a politician alive that does not have nightmares about losing tax revenue. It doesn’t matter whether they are Republican, Democrat, Independent or some other flavor of the day. It doesn’t matter whether they are local, state or federal level politicians. I guarantee that the best way to give a politician nightmares and/or sleepless night, is to have some kind of a threat of their pork being cut back.
    Ed is right on the money on this article.

    • Ih8twit December 16, 2014 at 4:38 pm

      Your not right about anything on this article. The best way to give you a nightmare is to take your pacifier away… now thats funny right there…. Get er done

      • My Evil Twin December 16, 2014 at 6:11 pm

        Actually, you are pathetic, rather than being funny. If you were not such a screw up, some people might actually like you. But as you are now, people just pity you

        • A reader December 17, 2014 at 10:31 pm

          MY EVIL TWIN, you hit the nail right on the head. The only problem is, the sheeple (both repugnuts and democruds) have to be right no matter the cost to the rest of us. P.S. A little side note to IH8TWIT, The very first word you use is “Your”, it should be “You’re”. So how can we believe what you say when you don’t even know which “your” to use? I think it’s time for you to grow up and lose the pacifier. How’s that for funny?

  • Hans W. Willstien December 16, 2014 at 6:02 pm

    Thanks goodness this is an opinion, there is absolutely no truths in this editorial.
    1st the cost to buy solar panels for the St. George system is around 6,000 dollars in which you recieve around 12 dollars, credited to your monthly elect bill. (You do the math)
    2nd very few residents are using solar in Southern Utah .067percent of the residents in an area that has sun shine 345 days a year.
    3rd nuclear power pants are low risk and low maintenance, More radiation has been blasted upon the citizens of the world do to testing of weaponry than if all the power plants macross the world exploded at the same time (2,100 nuke tests world wide, 1,000 dumped on So. Utah alone)
    4th electric cars are the least economical way of travel, Evan if you us solar, battery replacement is very expensive, with more damage created to the environment by manufacturing and discarding of batteries. The more electric cars are sold the greater demand is on all power plants coal, diesel, or nuke.
    5th all clean buring power plants are exactly that clean burning. With the use of regen burning systems that clean out the carbon and with the use of DEF fluid only water partials are imitated into the environment.
    6th The manufacturing of windmill parts such as all plastic and fiber blades, rotors, staters and electronics (by foreign manufactures that follow no EPA regulations) creats more damage to enviroment than what is saved.
    7th new light bulbs that have to be changed 5 times sooner than the old filament style creates a greater enviro hazard, more lights must be manufactured causing a large out put of waste than what is being saved, not to mention polluters packing into our land fills and the water ways by the florecent gas and material do to broken and discarded bulbs.
    8th And as Mr. Ed has stated, big business, oil companies, all evil manufactures, power companies, car manufactures would do what ever it takes to make money. Therefore if there where to be any money to be made by enviro friendly businesses they would have been boughten out or created by the for mentioned. Proving that it is not a dollar boo in business but a loosing proposition.
    But if we feel better about our selves by going green, get her done. Just don’t lie about it and force others to do so. You have a better chance of makeing a little money as a writer and columnist than you do going solar.

    • Joe Smith December 16, 2014 at 8:00 pm

      LOL, you should go tell the people of Japan and Ukraine how “low risk” nuclear power is. Plus they still haven’t found any sort of reasonable method to dispose of the spent fuel, which will be radioactive for 1000s of years…

    • Bender December 16, 2014 at 8:00 pm

      Regarding (3rd): Bender agrees that nuclear is the cat’s meow. Problem is that no one wants to assume the huge risks of financing construction and paying for and assuming liability for waste and its disposal. Right now nuclear is not affordable short huge government subsidies and guarantees. Hopefully this changes.
      .
      Regarding (5th): Carbon dioxide capture and sequestration is far from a mature technology and it’s not clear that it will ever be workable and affordable.
      .
      Regarding (7th): You’re either pulling that one out of your dark, nether regions or parroting some AM radio/FOX News blowhard. LED lighting will dominate the market in the next few years and is a clear win over 19th century lighting technology. Luddite.

  • EPA Certification Board December 17, 2014 at 10:23 pm

    I have to agree with Mr Willstien. He is completely 100 percent correct. after treatment devices (ATD system) upon performing a regen burn of the particulates trapped in the exhaust filtration system discharge cleaner air than that which has been pulled into the intake of a fossil fuel engine. The EPA has certified that every Diesel engine starts and runs in the year 2012 or newer only emits H2o from its exhaust system. As for as lights are concerned the comment never mentioned LED, but the pollution created by the manufacturing of the new lights in third world none compliant countries along with the pollution by florenstant lights, certainly creates a larger carbon foot print and extreme damage to the enviroment than traditional lighting. One more thing not mentioned, cruse liners that cruse the oceans for vacationing participants, cause more damage to the enviroment than all electrical generating power plants in the United States of America. Just think its free to think.

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