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It's not easy being green: City council reconsiders renewable energy fee

It's round two for green power in Farmington today, with utility customers attending another City Council work session to protest a recommended $40 renewable energy fee. "A bunch of us are going to turn up again," said Mike Eisenfeld, New Mexico staff organizer for the San Juan Citizen's Alliance. "I think the city needs to do the right thing and shuck the recommended policy." ..."All I can do is present the information and they will make a decision." "Customers who choose to utilize renewable energy should do so because they believe it is the right' thing to do, but should also understand that these options are more expensive than traditional carbon-based resources," the report reads.

FARMINGTON - It's round two for green power in Farmington today, with utility customers attending another City Council work session to protest a recommended $40 renewable energy fee.

"A bunch of us are going to turn up again," said Mike Eisenfeld, New Mexico staff organizer for the San Juan Citizen's Alliance. "I think the city needs to do the right thing and shuck the recommended policy."

At 9 a.m. today, the Council will consider again a consultant's report on the cost of service in Farmington's electric utility. The report recommends charging customers $40 a month for two types of green power: to sell self-generated solar power back to the utility and to buy green power in blocks from an outside wind farm or other renewable source.

The consultants and electric utility officials said the fees are necessary to offset the fixed costs customers normally pay as part of their utility bill. Regular electric customers pay a flat $10-a-month fee in addition to the power charge to help pay for infrastructure such as power lines and poles.

But no cost breakdown was available at the last meeting, and Council directed the consultants and utility officials to return with more information.

Officials... more [truncated due to possible copyright]  

FARMINGTON - It's round two for green power in Farmington today, with utility customers attending another City Council work session to protest a recommended $40 renewable energy fee.

"A bunch of us are going to turn up again," said Mike Eisenfeld, New Mexico staff organizer for the San Juan Citizen's Alliance. "I think the city needs to do the right thing and shuck the recommended policy."

At 9 a.m. today, the Council will consider again a consultant's report on the cost of service in Farmington's electric utility. The report recommends charging customers $40 a month for two types of green power: to sell self-generated solar power back to the utility and to buy green power in blocks from an outside wind farm or other renewable source.

The consultants and electric utility officials said the fees are necessary to offset the fixed costs customers normally pay as part of their utility bill. Regular electric customers pay a flat $10-a-month fee in addition to the power charge to help pay for infrastructure such as power lines and poles.

But no cost breakdown was available at the last meeting, and Council directed the consultants and utility officials to return with more information.

Officials researched the way other cities buy back residents' self-generated solar power, called net metering. Out of 22 utilities, most don't have a service charge, but many pay less to buy back power than Farmington's recommended three cents per kilowatt hour.

The $40 fee broke down this way: $14.88 for 15 administrative costs, from salaries to taxes; $10.77 for power generation; $7.07 for wires and $7 for increased administrative burden, including application, site visit and billing review for a total of $39.72.

"I'm just going to see where the discussion goes tomorrow. I don't know if the council will make a decision tomorrow, I'm not pressing for them to make a decision," Maude Grantham-Richards, electric utility administrator, said. "All I can do is present the information and they will make a decision."

"Customers who choose to utilize renewable energy should do so because they believe it is the right' thing to do, but should also understand that these options are more expensive than traditional carbon-based resources," the report reads.

When the report was first presented on Oct. 15, some 25 people asked the Council not to implement the recommendation by consultants R.W. Beck. Advocates said about 60 people originally attended the nearly five-hour meeting.

One person now has a solar paneled house connected to the Farmington grid and others said they're installing the panels.

The $191,000 report was commissioned to study rates among different types of customers after the completion of the Bluffview Power Plant in 2005.

While some premium might be agreeable to customers who want to buy green power in blocks, Eisenfeld said those customers who generate their own power shouldn't have to pay a premium far in excess of what they might make back.

"Farmington has some of the best solar power potential in the country." he said. "I think this whole thing was not well thought out at all."


Lindsay Whitehurst: lwhitehurst@daily-times.com


Source: http://www.daily-times.com/...

NOV 6 2007
http://www.windaction.org/posts/11784-it-s-not-easy-being-green-city-council-reconsiders-renewable-energy-fee
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