I’ve been pretty vocal over the years in candidly explaining the merits and drawbacks of rooftop residential solar installations. The good news is that installations are more affordable as costs come down. The bad news is that a subsidy is still required to support such investments.
SECO has been successful in supporting members who generate their own power without resorting to rebates or credits that inadvertently create financial burden on other members.
We feel those who choose to invest in their own installations should bear the long term costs to receive the benefits. I realize there are some who disagree but I want to emphasize that our philosophy doesn’t seem to be discouraging members who are committed to investing in solar energy.
Case in point: The Florida Office on Economic and Demographic Research reports that SECO has the highest number of solar interconnections of any electric cooperative or municipal utility in Florida with 271 installations. Per the report, SECO also has the highest gross power rating for solar when compared with the state’s other cooperatives.
SECO’s interconnected members produced 1,139,363 kilowatt hours last year, resulting in payments from SECO to the members totaling nearly $95,000 in 2015. Over the life of their systems, the company has paid nearly $281,000 to solar members for the electricity they’ve produced per the terms of our tariff and net metering policy.
I understand parts of our service territory have been inundated recently with door-to-door and robocall solicitation from energy efficiency and solar salesmen. My advice is to exercise caution if you are approached and to call SECO for a free second opinion on the financial outlay and payback. Our Energy Services team can walk you through identifying your home’s conduciveness to solar by examining orientation, roof pitch, usage and potential payback. Rest assured, we’re not trying to discourage you – we simply want you to know what you will get for your money.
Speaking of your money, Congress extended the Investment Tax Credit (IVT) –30% of the value of solar projects. The 30% credit extends through 2019. Per a recent Wall Street Journal article, these credits were key to the rapid expansion of renewable energy. Without our tax dollars, this industry would probably be floundering. But it’s booming – and who technically profits from the credit? Solar panel manufactures and sellers – they even get to pocket the tax credit if the consumer leases rather than purchases their installation. And they probably didn’t send you, the taxpayers, a thank you note or a Christmas card.
On the topic of large-scale solar, SECO is working with the Federal Correctional Facility in Coleman to integrate their new solar system. Through a federal expenditure – more of our tax dollars at work – the prison installed a two-megawatt solar system to offset its energy use.
Another project in the works will allow you to purchase small blocks of solar energy rather than spending tens of thousands of dollars on rooftop solar. This utility-scale system should be operational by year’s end – watch for enrollment details.
Utility-scale solar costs have decreased, but it’s important to remember that traditional generation must still stand ready to produce power when the sun doesn’t shine. Even if you invest in a solar system, SECO members still incur the cost of a $775 million electric system – the meters, lines, poles, transformers, substations and peak time power supply that serves solar members when the sun doesn’t shine… at night, on cloudy days, during hot summer afternoons during storm season and on cold winter mornings before sunrise.
Floridians with solar installations still expect full-time, reliable electricity to be able to run their ACs, cook dinner and power their electronic gadgets in the absence of sunlight. It’s a point often lost in discussion of future power needs.
Attend our 2016 Annual Meeting of the membership on Saturday, March 19, at our Sumterville Compound at 293 S Highway 301. Gates open at 8:00 a.m. with parking assistance and shuttle service. Join us for entertainment, coffee, cookies, doughnuts, and the now famous big breakfast biscuit.
Visit the tent with displays showing ways to reduce electric use and save on your bill. The Business Meeting starts at 10:30 a.m. after which a lot of cash prizes and door prizes are awarded. The grand prize is a refurbished 2005 Dodge Dakota 4×4.
Like SECO Energy on Facebook today as a first step to enter in a drawing for a $300 electric bill credit that will be awarded at the meeting. All members who attend the meeting and comment on, like, or upload a photo to our 2016 Annual Meeting status update on our Facebook page will be entered in the drawing. The randomly selected member must be present to win the $300 electric bill credit.
Not a Facebook user? Establish a Facebook account today to get ready. Don’t understand it? The SECO Energy Facebook Help Squad will be available at the meeting to help you access the page, like, comment and upload your best “selfie” photo. It’ll be great to show your kids and grandkids you’ve mastered the selfie!
After the business meeting and prize drawings, we typically wrap up by noon. We certainly hope you will join us.
$36,000 in Scholarships – March 25th Deadline
SECO Energy is a not-for-profit organization guided by the cooperative principles, so support for education and community needs are high priorities.
The Board of Trustees approved the continuation of the SECO Energy Scholarship Program. Board President Ray Vick said, “The Board is proud to renew our commitment to the support of youth and continuing education in our community. These scholarships can be used for community college, a university or a technical/trade school, and we hope that some of these students have a career in their future at SECO Energy once they’re out of school.”
Applications for the 2016 program are now available on our website and graduating high school seniors are eligible to apply. Up to 12 hardworking seniors will each be selected to receive a $3,000 scholarship. To qualify, the student must live in a home served by SECO Energy, graduate from high school in 2016, and have proof of acceptance with a plan to be a full-time student in a university, accredited college or vocational/technical institute in 2016.
If you don’t have Internet access or a printer at home, application packets were mailed to high school guidance counselors in January. Direct your student there or pick up an application from one of our five service center locations. Completed applications must be received by SECO Energy by 5 p.m. on Friday, March 25th. If you have questions about the scholarship program, contact us via our website or call (352) 569-9561
Read the full March 2016 SECO News here.