1. Seattle City Light is ratcheting back the incentives for people who use solar panels—and people like former Seattle mayor Greg Nickels are not happy about it.
People who put solar panels on their homes will now be receiving up to 35 percent less incentive money than the amount they were originally promised by Seattle City Light.
Historically, Seattle City Light used money from a state program known as the Renewable Energy System Cost Recovery Program that was created by the legislature to promote sustainable and green energy use. As part of that program, Seattle City Light told solar panel customers the would get $0.54 for every kilowatt-hour that their (Washington-made) solar panels generated energy. The rebates would be paid in five annual installments. Additionally, in an equation known as net metering, if the solar panels were generating more power than someone’s home was using in the first place, Seattle City Light would give solar users a credit on top of the rebates for all the power they put back into the city’s power grid.
But Seattle City Light topped out on the state program budget during the 2016 fiscal year, forcing them to scale back the program.
Nickels, who installed an 8.96-kilowatt solar panel system at his home last September, took to Facebook June 30 to voice his frustration over the change. The post garnered heated reactions from both sides, including from Mayor Ed Murray, who defended the city’s decision.
“Today is the end of the ‘Solar Year’ in Washington State,” Nickels wrote on his Facebook page. “This feels to me like a broken promise and will be a huge disincentive for others to install solar. And that’s a shame.”
Seattle City Light spokesman Scott Thomsen told Fizz Seattle City Light is not to blame for the drop in incentive money. Thomsen said the reason Seattle City Light reached the cap set by the legislature so quickly was because they more people were installing solar panels than anticipated, people were installing larger solar systems, and there were more days of sunshine in Seattle last year. Essentially, the program was a victim of its own success.
In a similar irony, Seattle City Light’s cap was also reduced due to lower electricity bills in general, which Thomsen attributed to lower heating bills for homeowners in recent milder winters and the increased number of energy efficient homes in the city in general.
Thomsen said Seattle City Light had two options when they reached their cap: end incentive programs for all future solar panel users, or cut the incentives for everybody. Mayor Murray chose the latter option for Seattle.
“Presumably, the incentives will keep going down until the legislature comes up with a fix for it,” Thomsen said.
Nickels said one way the city could make customers feel better about the incentive cuts, was to have the incentive payments extended from five years to seven or eight years.
“If you make a promise that you’re going to pay $0.54 an hour, and someone makes an investment—in our case the investment was over $30,000 to install the system—I think you have an obligation to make them whole,” Nickels told Fizz. “[Seattle City Light] has taken advantage of the system to encourage people to make that investment.”
SCL’s Thomsen said they “made no promises about incentives.” He added: “We described the incentives that were available from the state. The limitations on those incentives are set by the legislature as would any changes. All utilities in the state must follow those rules. If anyone believes changes are needed, they should contact their legislators.”
Original Article on SeattleMet here
A RESOLUTION relating to the City Light Department; acknowledging the 2016 Integrated Resource Plan for future energy efficiency and power resources needed to provide reliable, cost-effective, and environmentally responsible electric power to the citizens of Seattle as conforming with the public policy objectives of The City of Seattle and the requirements of the State of Washington; and approving the plan for the biennium September 2016 through August 2018.
Attention Seattle Council Members,
Seattle City Light (SCL) is limiting its strategy to a centralized, baseload model. They are not embracing the inevitable future of a decentralized, flexible, integrated, modernized energy grid. Their projections assume no disruptive technology NOR market driven adoption of independent, decentralized solar generation. The old utility model is on its way out, to maintain the status quo decades into the future is delusional.
Solar energy generation technology and storage are becoming more affordable every year; within 10 years we could see over half of all homeowners generating their own power. We only have to look to Germany who is the world leader incorporating renewable energy (includes high levels of solar) into their energy policy. The Seattle area is positioned in a similar, if not better, weather environment than Germany.
If utilities, such as Seattle City Light, do not prepare the grid or mindset for this inevitability, it will become a crisis for the City of Seattle and the many consumers still dependent on the centralized electricity. This will necessarily bias the costs to fewer people. Rates will continue to skyrocket.
This shift has been described in the visionary book by Jeremy Rifkin, “The Third Industrial Revolution.” It is compared to the rapid evolution of the telecommunications industry — desktops to smartphones in less than 20 years. We are seeing the shift in centralized media, news and information from TV, newspapers, and radio to online independent sharing of information from all around the world instantaneously — full realization of ‘Freedom of Speech’, by all for all. This was the second industrial revolution. The first industrial revolution was oil and the machine; automobiles. Horse and buggy shared the road with Model-T’s for a time, until it became imperative that we all have automated transportation to survive in our modern society.
The same will happen with energy. As a society, we are in the earliest stages of independent energy generation. For now it’s the early adopters; those who have the resources and the technical where-with-all, will be first.
We at Safe Utility Meters Alliance Northwest, began our advocacy because of the callous harm inflicted on us and trampling of our constitutional rights of privacy and security for our persons, houses, and effects caused by Advanced Metering Infrastructure (AMI). The only reason that SCL must deploy AMI is to protect their revenue amidst an obsolescing energy grid model. The utility is already experiencing reduced residential demand due to conservation efforts, forcing them to look for new customers to maintain demand for baseload.
We must realize that a strategy for the future public energy grid needs to include: reliability at lowest cost and risk, and the most environmentally friendly technology. This depends on embracing an independent, decentralized, flexible, renewable energy grid. This requires that SCL look beyond the status quo, and an illusory refuge of the centralized, economies of scale model.
They admit in their own Strategic Plan “that the Electric Industry is changing and that the reality is that customers may not need traditional utility service tomorrow as they do today.” So why then, are they not taking the leadership in enabling the energy of the future?
SCL is being complacent at the public’s peril.
SUMA-NW Representatives Sonia Hoglander and Nancy Morris give testimony to the Seattle City Council opposing “smart” meters.
SUMA-NW Members Rebecca Campbell and David Ward follow up with additional testimony.
Seattle City Light was asked what the impact would be to delay the $95 MILLION AMI Project for 3 years and/or 6 years. Stunning!
Core members have been working behind the scenes over the past half year to move past the decision by the Seattle City Council (SCC) to fund the Advanced Metering Infrastructure (“smart” metering system) for Seattle City Light (SCL) in late 2014.
There have been informational presentations (big thanks to David Ward for putting together an excellent PowerPoint, which we hope to make available soon on our website), networking opportunities with certain activist groups (updates later), attendance and testimonials at the SCC, and of course flyering at various venues.
A major event was our meeting with Larry Weis, the new General Manager for SCL, confirmed on March 20, 2016.
On April 4, 2016, SUMA met with Mr. Weis, Kelly Enright (Customer Care Director and AMI Project Manager) and Sephir Hamilton (Chief of Staff). SUMA was represented by Sonia Hoglander, Nancy Morris and Dr. Timothy Schoechle. It was an informative and cordial meeting. We raised additional cost/benefit analysis issues and discussed our concern about the green-washing of alleged benefits of so called “smart” meters.
As result of that meeting and a Public Document Request we received the SCL Cost Benefit Analysis used to justify the investment in AMI. In summary the analysis:
- Focused on Build or Buy options – they decided to choose a 3rd Party Hosted Solution (the data will be managed between the meter on your house to the billing system at SCL by an independent, for profit, corporation)
- AMI is a Revenue Metering system; some speculate it could be part of a “Smart” Grid if it is built.
- Cost Savings are labor focused; billing staff, meter testers, disconnect/connect services, meter readers
- Digital meters are more precise than analog meters increasing revenue 1% per customer
- Costs based on a 15 year lifespan of the meters
What was NOT analyzed:
- Environmental impact, because there is no value
- Conservation impact, because there is no value
- Consumer risk/impact, because this is not for the customer this is for the revenue
- Meter replacement costs; actual lifespans of meters are not what the manufacturers claim and NO digital meter can match the lifespan of an analog meter at 50 years
Reaching out to new Seattle City Council Members:
- We sought meetings with Juarez and Gonzalez
- We met with Juarez’s office
- We provided updated and new information regarding the cost/benefit analysis and greenwashing
New Talking Points reflect new discoveries:
- Greenwashing of intent to upgrade revenue meters to automate services and reduce labor costs
- Environmental benefit exaggerated to sell SCC and public
- Costly to consumers with no actual benefit
- Network/Ally with other activist groups
- Reach out to City Council members, Chambers of Commerce, Town Halls
- Organize mass opt-outs by city/neighborhood
- Flyering Half Sheet Combined Flyer
- Local Petitions by neighborhood
- Shift focus from Anti-AMI to Pro-Grid modernization
- Tabling and Presenting at SolarFest in Shoreline July 23rd
- Volunteers are welcome
We are planning a General Meeting in late Summer to early Fall, to present our Mass Opt-Out Campaign.