Last week, we got our first electricity bill with a full month of solar energy production on our roof. I was excitedly looking forward to a bill in which our production exceeded our consumption, and so we had nothing to pay at all. Zero for electricity! Well it turns out, that can’t happen in Maine. Apparently, in the not so distant past they changed the structure of delivery rate payments so that anything less than or up to 50 kWh is billed at a set rate. So no matter how little we use, I realized, we would always have to pay $11.51 per month.
But then, the very next day I read in the paper that rates were going up July 1st–but I couldn’t find the details anywhere until today–so now the basic delivery rate will be $12.88 for up to 50 kWh. (By the way, that would be .2576 per kWh if you used those 50.) The delivery rate for over 50 is going from .06302 to .066541. This is in addition to the actual energy charge, which for us with CMP standard offer is an additional .064430 per kWh.
I wouldn’t be so angry if I hadn’t spent a day at the state house at the end of April listening to conservatives arguing that solar customers were getting a free ride and being subsidized by all other customers. Here’s the thing I was thinking that day, assuming that we did have true net metering–where we only paid for the balance between what we generated and what we used–solar customers benefit the whole grid because we are adding energy to the grid during its highest use demands–summertime in the heat of the day.
And this is our earth we are talking about–we should be creating policies that encourage more and more renewal energy usage, or we won’t have a planet that can support human life anymore. Human life, anyone? At this point in Maine, only on the hottest summer days do we even reach 1% of the total energy used being solar energy. Shouldn’t we be talking about how to increase that to 50%? Not castigating those of us who have worked so hard to make a change, by calling us “elite” and acting like we are a drain on the rest of the customers?
Margy and I just spent a lot of money because we really care about the earth. It was almost impossible for us to do–we had to move to a new house and downsize our living situation to be able to afford the investment. But we really really care about the future of the earth. And we also hoped that as we grew older and had less financial resources, this would help us to get by.
But now I know that even if we use no energy at all from the grid, we must still pay 12.88 per month, to be able to be tied into the grid. And I understand that if everyone had solar panels tied to the grid (wouldn’t that be our dream future?) we collectively would have to find a way to maintain and support the infrastructure of the grid. But the attitudes of certain politicians in Maine are downright punitive towards solar customers. While I was web surfing trying to find the new rates, I discovered that two years ago, they were trying to add a $25 monthly surcharge for solar customers. It didn’t succeed that time, but everything will be reviewed again this coming year. Oh, and by the way, CMP is owned by the Spanish multinational corporation Iberdrola. So isn’t that the real issue–the privatization of public utilities and profits for the shareholders?
I am dealing with a bit of reality shock about all this–after the initial excitement about going for solar, I am discovering just how much of a battle is involved on so many fronts. It caught me off guard. I called our solar installer and he apologized for this not being clearer up front–he thought he had explained it before. But I am curious–to those of you with solar in other states: do you have any zero bills? How does it work where you live?