Letter: Solar energy solution

Solar energy solution

Editor of the Reformer:

A recent article ("AG warning: Stop false marketing," Dec. 24) did a good job laying out the range of opinions of the solar Renewable Energy Credits (RECs) debate. As with many debates the truth is often in the middle and I think this will become clear if we follow the money.

RECs are presently selling for about 5 cents a kilowatt hour and are usually purchased by "dirty" utilities that are required to invest in renewable projects. While important, these programs are only a part of the picture and unfortunately REC prices are not fixed or guaranteed over time, which reduces their impact.

Another important part of the puzzle is the 4 to 6 cent adder that Vermont power companies guarantee over 10 years. This is on top of a full residential rate guarantee for 20 years. (This power company guarantee was actually voluntarily started by Green Mountain Power because it provided needed electricity in the middle of the day at a price that was cheaper than building new power plants.)

The third, and perhaps most important part of the financial model, is the purchase of solar net metering credits by consumers. This provides the guaranteed income, and often the upfront capital for the solar developers to create and operate the systems.

Rather than suggesting that the purchasers of the RECs are "green" and everyone else is "dirty," wording is clearly needed that gives each party appropriate credit. It is the combination of all of these factors that has led to the remarkable success of the solar industry in Vermont. Over time the industry will mature and payment systems will evolve, but clearly all parties (including the Vermont legislature) deserve credit for jump starting this industry in a cost effective way.

Since, solar power is no longer as simple as people putting solar panels on their roofs to produce power for themselves. Production, consumption, ownership, and investment are now often provided by different parties. For example the owners of the solar system that creates the electricity might be called the solar electricity producers. The owners of the RECs would be the solar electricity consumers. The people providing guarantees, investments, or buying the net metering credits would be solar electricity investors. This way each important part can be marketed separately and people can choose how they want to participate. To help insure continued success, perhaps the Attorney General and the Vermont Law School can supply appropriate terms, such as these, that support all solar energy contributors?

Lester Humphreys, Brattleboro, Dec. 28


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