CMP supports green energy, but not at the financial expense of others

March 29, 2014 by  
Filed under Green Energy News

As a proud graduate of the Bowdoin Class of 1975 and an employee of Central Maine Power (CMP), I have been following the recent articles in the Orient—about the College’s plan to install solar panels and the potenfial fee imposed by CMP on said panels—with a combination of interest and dismay. I am glad to see the College’s commitment to sustainable energy technology, but disheartened by the one-sided view on the issue of who ought to pay for the true costs for CMP to serve the Bowdoin community. As this debate continues, I hope all of the students and my fellow alumni will keep the following three points in mind.

First, CMP supports the development of renewable energy and has distributed generation technology in the past. With more than 50 megawatts of solar generation in the U.S., our parent company, Iberdrola, is a global leader in sustainable energy technology and one of the largest wind power producers in the world. In the past year alone, Iberdrola invested nearly $220 million in RD in sustainable resources including wind, solar thermal, photovoltaic, tidal, and carbon capture technology. Our company absolutely shares our parent company’s commitment to these technologies, and we are not opposed to Bowdoin’s planned solar array. CMP is a delivery service provider not a supplier of electricity. Bowdoin is our customer—not our competitor.

Second, Bowdoin’s photovoltaic panels may be able to reduce the school’s dependence on electricity suppliers, but the school still needs CMP’s service as much or even more. The value of the grid is in the connection, and the costs of providing that connection are fixed. As long as the college remains a CMP customer, we are obligated to provide reliable access to energy supplies at all times to meet all of their needs. Even though the solar panels may produce some or all of the College’s electricity for some hours each day, our company can’t remove poles and wires to use elsewhere, we can’t cut corners on maintenance, and we can’t respond less promptly when a tree falls on a line. Those are fixed costs to serve Bowdoin.

Third, unless all customers pay their fair share of the utility’s true cost of providing delivery service, other customers pay higher rates on their behalf. That cost shift disproportionately affects low income customers, so as a matter of basic fairness, all 620,000 customers should simply pay the true cost of the service we provide them. The fact that the College can generate some of its own electricity supply is an advantage for the Bowdoin community, but other customers shouldn’t be asked to compound that advantage by subsidizing the school’s service.

CMP is investing in a stronger, smarter grid. Our system enables consumers to tap the benefits of new consumer-scaled generator technologies without sacrificing reliability and convenience, and it gives them a way to earn back the value from their excess power without spending on expensive storage technology, too. As a graduate of Bowdoin, I support the decision to install a source of clean, renewable power on campus, but I also urge the students, alumni and administration to recognize their basic obligation to other CMP customers. The College should pay its fair share for the benefits it receives, rather than arguing that others should bear their costs.

Ken Farber is a member of the Class of 1975.

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