We are one of the 36 households or businesses in Los Alamos that have purchased solar panels to generate electricity. Recently, the Los Alamos Department of Public Utilities (DPU) has put out information suggesting that electricity generated by the County’s solar panel owners provides miniscule benefits to the community while unfairly burdening other customers. One Board of Public Utilities member was quoted in the Monitor as saying that being carbon neutral is not in the best interest of the ratepayers.
We disagree completely with this statement. Everyone sees the trees dying around us. Partly this has been caused by the drought, and partly by the trees struggling to deal with rising temperatures during the drought. Our local climate scientists believe that most of our trees will be dead by 2050. By 2099, Los Alamos will have the temperatures that Albuquerque has now. We may be living exponentially, but we will be doing it indoors with air conditioning and outdoors with no trees and no ski area.
Coal-fired electricity generation is one of the major contributors to rising temperatures, besides releasing mercury and other health hazards into the air. Our main reason for purchasing solar panels is because we hate the impacts of coal-fired power generation, and we want to personally contribute as little as possible to the need for that energy. We have invested significantly in purchasing panels because we want to be proactive in this stance. In addition to paying the monthly fixed service fee that the Department of Public Utilities charges, we will be paying off the power generating infrastructure we have contributed for some time to come. We do not feel like freeloaders.
The DPU is proposing to nearly double the fixed service fee for most electricity customers, and to nearly quadruple it for customers that own any amount of solar panels. It is perfectly valid to examine how we should pay to maintain our electrical grid and our power supply. However, under the current proposal the DPU is making unilateral decisions to strongly discourage homeowners and businesses from purchasing solar panels. The analysis produced for the DPU by their consultants does not consider any of the tangible or intangible benefits of homeowner- or business-financed solar power generation to our County, and the DPU specifically directed their consultants that they wanted an additional charge placed on net-metered customers.
The Department of Public Utilities is doing an amazing job with our recycling program, and our interactions with their customer service representatives have been nothing but good. However, we think that the current proposal is misguided. We as a community deserve to have an open and frank discussion about our values, the costs of our electrical infrastructure and energy purchases, and our options going forward. We recommend that the Board of Public Utilities set aside the current proposal, educate the community on the actual issues they are facing, and allow public participation in formulating the best solutions to benefit both current and future citizens of Los Alamos County.
If you would like to find out more about the proposed electric rate restructure and increase, visit the Open Forum topic on the Los Alamos County website at http://www.losalamosnm.us/gov/Pages/PublicCommentForum.aspx?pd_url=http%3A%2F%2Fwww.peakdemocracy.com%2Fportals%2F119%2F2279#peak_democracy.