To Co-op Currents:
I applaud the Co-op for making the Co-op Currents digital.
However, the September issue had me confused with the links to read the “net metering” pieces at the tail end of the print issue. I first clicked on each of the links and read those pieces; they seemed short and disjointed. I then read the PDF of the whole issue; reading first the front page story apparently written by the Manager and Board Chair. The end pieces seemed duplicative of the front page story.
I appreciated the discussion about equity and net metering, but did not see any intention of getting the legislature to “fix” the situation. Is the Co-op going to lobby the legislature to reduce net metering payments? Who is lobbying the Legislature for the WECoop?
As far as reading the digital Currents, I recommend readers click directly to the PDF to read the print version (virtually).
To Co-op Currents:
Interesting!! After encouraging customers with incentives to install solar systems, heat pumps for heat and hot water, buy other appliances including electric cars you go for a substantial rate hike. I do hope the new rate will be on those with net metering to balance out the inequity between the haves and have nots.
To Co-op Currents:
I wanted to thank the WEC Board President, General Manager, and Board for their clear and informative statement on the current net metering compensation program and its impact on WEC members, and as important, how it is a deterrent to encouraging our members to move off of fossil fuel for meeting their heating and transportation needs to using electricity, supplied by renewable energy generation.
A few facts: if all fixed costs to run our not-for-profit Co-op were recovered in our monthly member charge, it would be more than $90, not under $30/month. How much does each WEC household spend on their monthly bills for cell phone, cable, landline with DSL? Since the 1990s, WEC has been a strong supporter of conservation, energy efficiency, and net metering (including meeting and surpassing the Public Utility Commission 4% of sales, then the 10% requirement). WEC was one of the first Vermont utilities to divest from nuclear power generation, to move to landfill gas generation, and the first to have a 100% non-fossil fuel power supply for our members. The issue has never been WEC support for renewable generation, but rather: after 25 years, the outdated net metering cost subsidy reimbursement, its spread from its original residential home focus, paying commercial for-profit companies residential kWh rate subsidies, while selling power during winter at lower commercial rates, with non-net metering members picking up more of the share of operating and fixed costs.
But even more important is the counterproductive impact on WEC’s ability to be able to lower its upper block cost per kWh so as to make the transition off fossil fuel for our members’ heating and transportation use more economical. The net metering program over 25 years has been highly successful, and it is now time to refocus, finding the most effective and efficient ways to use solar and other renewables and to more appropriately incentivize our transition for heat and transportation away from fossil fuel.
Barry Bernstein is a former President of WEC’S Board and co-owner of BWE, and was involved in the installation of 100 wood chip heating systems in New England, including National Life, Norwich University, Green Acres Housing Project, and over 40 Vermont schools and businesses.
To Co-op Currents:
I read with disappointment the WEC Board’s recent letter of opposition to net metering and home solar power.
It’s obvious that Vermont’s net metering structure as it’s set up needs to change — it is penalizing utilities in direct proportion to the number of subscribers who use it. That’s the reverse of what you’d hope for. One thought is, the State could assume the subsidy payments, so the costs are shared equally.
Three years ago, my concern about runaway global warming and our country’s lack of action to slow it down became so acute that I decided I had to do what I could on my own. I was well aware that the Co-op’s power mix is fully “renewable”, though unclear about what that means for global warming. But I was also concerned that given WEC’s sky-high rates and the good chance of further big increases (as we are seeing now), converting our heating oil and gasoline use to electric would expose us to unforeseeable and possibly huge future costs.
So I bought a solar array big enough to power not only our existing load, but also heat pumps and an electric vehicle charger. Now that it’s been a few years, I feel our experience could be useful to others. In broad terms, our kWh usage has nearly tripled, from around 6,000/year to 17,000. We have almost stopped burning gasoline—how can that not be a great thing for the Earth? Our heating oil has declined, and we burn less than a cord of wood, down from 3 a year.
Ironically, it turns out we could have afforded to just stick with WEC power, at least at for now. If I’d had some trustworthy guidance to forecast our usage and analyze this, I might have elected not to get the solar, and see what happened. If WEC wants people to consider this option, it could help members assess it.
Sadly, as the Board’s letter makes clear, the Co-op still conceives its role as supplying light and appliance power; the idea of families converting off fossil fuels by expanding their use of electricity seems not to be in its thinking. I feel a little leadership here might have saved the Coop a world of hurt.
So what about our costs? Our Co-op bills have gone from about $1,000 in 2018 to around $875 in 2020 (2019 was the conversion year). But in 2021, we spent $1300. Why? To our surprise, running the heat pumps as a/c in the summer has dramatically improved our allergies. So we may be spending more, not less —of course, for a ton more power.
The battery we bought with the system for backup has another capability that could be great for the Co-op. I can easily set it to sequester power from the solar array during sunlight hours, and then release it to WEC during peak usage hours. At those times the Co-op could use that power and not have to sell it at a loss. You would think the Co-op would have interest in that. GMP actually gives batteries to solar subscribers for that purpose. But in spite of asking, I’ve heard nothing. So, I just set it by my best guess. But imagine if all the members with batteries used them to shift locally generated power to the time it’s needed! I could literally shift nearly half my production on a sunny day. (And yes I know a signaling system would be ideal. But isn’t there a benefit in the current world as well?)
Beyond the immediate financial issues with net metering, I hope the Co-op will expand its vision to its potential for helping displace fossil fuel use in cars and home heating. Batteries to complement home solar are one avenue, but I’m sure there are others, such as implications for both generation and transmission.
For the WEC Board of Directors’ position statement, context, and more information on the Co-op’s ongoing conversation about net metering, please see: