By Jim Tolbert
El Pasoans, including members of State Sen. José Rodriguez’s Sustainable Energy Advisory Committee, are coalescing around a plan to stop the El Paso Electric Company’s attempt to kill the solar energy industry in El Paso. Not only does EPE want to raise everyone’s rates by as much as 12 percent, it wants to penalize photovoltaic solar energy users with a 24 percent increase.
Recently Eco El Paso, an organization that promotes eco‐sensitive and energy-efficient community planning, building design, construction and facility maintenance in El Paso, has tentatively agreed to become an intervenor in the rate hike case before the Public Utilities Commission.
The El Paso Sierra Club Group Executive Committee voted to support Eco El Paso and pledged $1,000 toward legal expenses.
Using language employed by the Koch Brothers and ALEC, EPE joins a nationwide campaign by utilities and the oil, gas and coal industries to misinform the public about solar energy. Solar users are referred to by EPE CEO Tom Shockley as “free-loaders” or “free riders.” EPE’s propaganda paints solar users as being subsidized by the utility while relying on non-solar users to expand and maintain the grid.
Non-solar users need to understand two shocking facts. First, as ratepayers they have been paying for the expansion of EPE production facilities even though demand in El Paso has been falling with more energy-efficient homes and appliances. EPE has found that the grid is a valuable market. El Pasoans pay for production while EPE sells excess energy to other utilities through the grid.
The other fact is that EPE doesn’t subsidize solar users; solar users subsidize EPE. Solar users sell electricity to EPE for 2.5 cents, and EPE resells it for 10-plus cents. Solar reduces transmission and distribution costs on the grid and wear and tear on equipment such as transformers. What may be solar energy’s most valuable contribution to the El Paso Southwest is that it requires no water except to clean the panels perhaps twice a year. How many gallons of water does it take to frack a well for the natural gas that heats even more water to drive the turbines to make electricity? Millions and millions.
To learn more about the benefits of solar energy and the efforts by people in El Paso to oppose EPE’s efforts to destroy the solar energy industry, follow www.elpasonaturally.blogspot.
Photo courtesy of Solar Smart Living