Consider this: Two cars drive down a stretch of Missouri highway. Both benefit from the smooth pavement, the guardrails, the new bridges and the wide shoulders. Both contribute to the potholes and other wear and tear on the roads.
What’s the the difference? One car runs on gas. Its driver pays a tax on every gallon of fuel purchased to power the car. Money collected from this tax pays for the repair and improvement of state and federal roads and bridges.
The other car runs on electricity. Its driver never stops at a gas station to buy fuel and, as a result, never pays the tax. The electric car owner has a “free ride” so to speak as he or she uses Missouri’s highway system.
State and federal transportation officials are aware of this disparity as more and more drivers switch to hybrid or all-electric vehicles. Likewise, electric utilities like your electric cooperative are concerned that this type of situation could also affect the electric grid we all depend upon.
This is why we have launched our “Fairness Down the Line” initiative. It deals with the importance of having everyone who uses the rural electric grid pay their fair share of its cost.
Special interest groups want to change Missouri’s net metering law, unfairly shifting costs from the select few who can afford solar panels on their homes to the member-owners who can’t afford solar panels.
Our perspective is simple: because all members are continuously connected to the grid, all members should pay evenly to maintain it. Special interest groups, however, have other ideas.
In the 2016 legislative session, these groups filed legislation and tried to use an initiative petition process to achieve their unfair agenda. Missouri’s Electric Cooperatives along with other utilities helped stop those special interest groups in 2016, but we know they will be back to attempt these changes once again.
Members with solar panels benefit from the same grid you and I use nearly 24 hours of every day — either to buy power for their home when the sun isn’t shining or to sell power when their panels are generating more energy than the member needs. Shouldn’t these members pay their fair share to maintain the grid since they use it?
One little-known fact is that solar panels require a connection to the grid to function. It takes electricity to operate the device that converts DC power from the panels to AC power used in the home.
During a power outage, solar panels by design shut down. This ensures they don’t continue to generate power, which could move out over the grid, causing injury or death to lineworkers making repairs.
The co-op business model in Missouri has been successful because we work to provide what members want at a price they can afford. In fact, the third Cooperative Principle — which addresses Members’ Economic Participation in the cooperative — speaks to this: “Members contribute equitably to, and democratically control, the capital of the cooperative.”
At annual meetings all summer long, and at the Missouri State Fair, we talked to thousands of members who agree with us. They told us they want affordable and reliable electricity. They told us they don’t mind paying their share of the costs associated with bringing them electricity. But they draw the line at paying other’s share of these expenses.
We will be visiting more with you about this issue. Our goal is to ensure the price charged for electricity is fair for all. Please join the conversation on fairness by visiting www.4energyfairness.com or www.facebook.com/moelectriccoops.