Monday, August 3, 2015

Is Southern California Edison Ripping Off Anti-Solar Power Sierra Madre?

From the video "Edison Hates Rooftop Solar" (link)
It is kind of funny, or at least it is in an unfunny sort of way. Sierra Madre, which had city leadership that for years proudly proclaimed itself to be the greenest of the green, and even pushed a "Green Committee" into existence despite wariness from certain skeptical portions this community (like me), is one of a relative few cities in the area using only the most minimal amounts of solar power for its buildings and facilities. Which might seem baffling to some when you consider the vast amounts of global warming hot air put out on this very topic a few years back by then Mayor John Buchanan.

What makes this especially irritating is that we will soon have to endure a third City Hall mandated campaign to raise utility tax rates in this city because of what they claim are cash shortfalls. Despite the twice voted wishes of the people of Sierra Madre that City Hall learn to live on a 6% UUT budget, all indications are that three politicians on the City Council will soon be asking for twice that amount. Which would put the Foothill Village into its very own highest utility tax bracket in California.

And for whose benefit? Certainly that list would have to include Southern California Edison (link). Here are some bills from Fat Eddie that were processed through the City Council earlier this year. Please note that between January 13 and February 24 of this year alone the City of Sierra Madre sent Edison $109,087.00 in taxpayer dough. Authorized at just three City Council meetings.

January 13

January 27

February 24

$109,087.00 in just six weeks is a lot of cash. By my rough estimate, and when you include all of the Water Department and lighting district electric bills, the total amount of cash Sierra Madre will send to dirty power giant Southern California Edison this year alone will be somewhere in the one half to three quarters of a million dollar range. With only very minuscule solar power offsets.

A pretty sweet deal for Edison. For you? Not so much.

Sierra Madre's governmental hostility to solar power didn't just stop at City Hall's doors. According to an article published on the Sierra Madre Patch site (of all places) back in June of 2011, the city was also actively discouraging solar power usage on private homes by charging people exorbitant fees (link).

Are High Fees Stifling Solar Power in Sierra Madre?
A report released Monday by the Sierra Club shows that Sierra Madre is charging fees for the installation of solar panels that are among the highest in Los Angeles County.

The report shows that the permit fees charged by the city for rooftop photovoltaic systems on commercial buildings are particularly high, relative to the other 89 Southern California cities included in the survey.

In fact, at a cost of $37,349 per 131 kilowatt commercial system, Sierra Madre currently has the third highest fee of all the cities surveyed, topped by only Inglewood and Rolling Hills Estates.

It took a City Council meeting and some unhappy residents to fix that one. Solar fees then came down.

So how can Sierra Madre get out from under Edison's huge electricity bills, while also losing its rep as a dirty power city?

I have a couple of ideas. This first article comes from The Denver Post. It sheds some light on what can be done by government agencies that have all of the necessary clues, and the wisdom to put them to use.


The rest of this article can be linked to here.

There was a story that ran a while back on the Weather Channel webpage (link) called "Solar Panels Save the Music for Calif. School District." Also interesting.



You have to wonder why Sierra Madre, a city that proclaims its greenness when given the chance, and has its very own EENER Commission no less, never got on board with solar power for its municipal buildings and facilities. 

And maybe we should ask exactly who it was that stopped it.

My guess is it has a lot to do with the strong sway Southern California Edison has enjoyed at Sierra Madre City Hall for the last decade or so. Typified by the eight year City Council reign of Edison employee John Buchanan.

The dirty power giant is at war with solar power providers because even they know that both their antiquated business model and energy monopoly are at risk. And according to energy expert Matt Niswonger, the stakes are high (link):

In California, approximately 70% of the electricity we buy from PG&E and Southern California Edison is derived from fossil fuels. This dirty power accounts for the vast majority of our annual carbon emissions, which in 2014 are projected to reach 40 billion tons globally—another all-time high.

There is also this question. Am I the only one who finds it offensive that the city believes it has to double utility taxes in order to pay for things like its exorbitant Edison bills, while at the same time not lifting a finger to do anything about it? Or, perhaps worse, even collaborating with Edison to keep solar power off Sierra Madre municipal buildings?

Especially when solar power is the far cheaper, and environmentally friendly, way to get the job done?

My guess is the city sold us out to Edison. Now they want to raise your utility taxes to help pay for it.

sierramadretattler.blogspot.com

42 comments:

  1. electing Buchanan is like putting John Dillinger as head of bank security

    anybody endorsed by him never gets my vote

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    1. He had the opportunity to endorse a sane development plan at One Carter.
      Instead, he went for wildlife annihilation and contorted lots, designed by greed.
      He was a dominant council member, and could surely have swayed Torres.
      He's got a very big crime against nature on his record.

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    2. John Buchanan is not green.

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  2. How can you claim to be green and not wean the city off of Edison?

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  3. Didn't Buchanan propose taxing solar installations the same based on the prior usage, before going solar? sort of taxing the Sun!

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  4. I think for John Buchanan being green meant building high density mixed use condo complexes serviced by public transportation. Mostly buses. Most people figured out that he was full of crap.

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    1. One of the best political ironies in Sierra Madre campaign history - Buchanan had a picture of a tree on his second run sign. To help people remember the hundred trees lost to hillside development.

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    2. But he loves the hillsides. He had them especially reformed to accomodate his wife's walks with their dog.

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  5. Anyone remember that electric scooter business that started up next to the police station on the west side. THEY LEFT TOWN. They said because of the cost and difficulties with city hall when they wanted to put solar panels on the roof to provide not only electrical for charging their wide selection of electric scooters both 2,3 and 4 wheel but also a place where the public could pull in and charge up. I knew the owner quite well and he said it was a fight every time he went over to discuss the high cost to him by the city. Poor guy finally closed up shop and moved to Monrovia. Was a nice guy providing jobs said he was done with SM. Think I'll see if he is still in business in Monrovia.

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    1. If people start a new business in this little town, they have to bring their clients with them. We're just not big enough to support a business like this. He'll do better in Monrovia.

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    2. An electric vehicle charging station in Sierra Madre? Powered by solar? That guy is lucky he didn't get shot.

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  6. Did Buchanan's Green Committee ever even discuss solar power for city buildings?

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    1. The poor EENERs have tried I think to do good. But their effectiveness was wiped out when they stopped being the very productive Tree Commission, and became Nancy Walsh's fantasy.

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    2. I think with proper City Council guidance the Eeeners could be effective. Maybe they can focus on this solar power situation. That would be a big coup for them if they pulled it off.

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    3. How to make them effective?
      Change them back into the Tree Commission.

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    4. Disbanding the EENER commission would save a lot of time and money. Good idea.

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    5. Adding Dave Robinson to the commission is a good move. He knows about water and power, and is a strong proponent of solar.

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    6. That is good news.

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  7. The city is against solar for homes because it looses the UUT. Recently Edison restructured its tiers. They raised the first and second tiers a lot to get the solar customers to pay more. We have solar and rarely are we in tier two. I figure I save at least a hundred bucks a year on UUT. If the City thinks that I am going to pay a UUT on sunshine, I don't think so.
    An investment in solar would be the smart thing to do......but wait we are talking about Elaine and Bruce.

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    Replies
    1. Always about the money. They have big pensions and benefit packages to pay. Everything else be damned.

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  8. In 2011, when it was discovered that the city was using "valuation" (a percentage of the cost of the project) for establishing the fee for installing solar (either voltaic or water heating) Tamara Compean and I worked with the Sierra Club to get the city to reduce their permit fees to as low as possible (some cities had $00.00 to encourage solar installation).

    All of Northern California had been surveyed. Tamara managed the southern California counties project and assigned volunteers for this survey. I, and another a man living in Wrightwood, divided San Bernadino County. I remember calling the Building Department in Needles and talked to someone who said that "...this is a very poor community...if people wanted to put up solar--a very expensive investment--we wouldn't charge them a thing..."

    After the City Council hearing, the fee was set at $550.00, which was a huge reduction from “valuation.” Solar installation being very expensive was costing Sierra Madre customers upwards of $5000.

    I see now on the city website, that the solar fee is $488.

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    1. Great work Caroline! Glad to have you as a neighbor.

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  9. I wouldn't say the city represents itself 'ad-nauseum' that it is 'ultra green'. That's stretching the facts to push you point. It's a good point, but you can still be effective without overly exaggerating.

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    1. Are you familiar with former Mayor John Buchanan?

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    2. Where would the Tattler be without a bit of exaggeration now and then?
      What's your blog, 9:54?

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    3. It's not exaggeration, it is enthusiasm.

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  10. Just got my water bill only used 9 units. Used less water and my bill is up from $94 to $138 an almost 50% higher bill and I used almost no water.I'm a senior on a fixed income,guess I'll have to sell pot as I did in my younger days to pay my bills. Go figure

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    1. It is always about the money. Especially when you're told it is not.

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    2. Pot legalization is supposed to be on the Nov. 2016 ballot. Not Mike S. may have to lower his prices.

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    3. What is the street price of pot these days? I haven't bought any in 30 or so years.

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    4. I'm sure it's expensive - look at how much bread and milk are now as opposed to 30 years ago. But there really isn't any plain old pot anymore. There are hallucinogenic strands, and wowie zowie strands, and all kinds of altered combinations.

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    5. I'm sure it makes you even more creative.

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    6. At a medical dispensary its as cheap as $60. for an oz. of not good shake, up to $280. or more for a chronic oz.

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    7. Dr. Sami's medical center has a green cross. Is he selling medicinal marijuana?

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    8. Prolly just a permit/license/prescription to purchase it elsewhere .About $40 a year for the Dr.prescription plus state fee of $35 I think. But you must be 18 years or older,so ask any H.S. student

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  11. For those of you who like the new city website - how do I find the agenda for a commission or council meeting? Or past council meeting staff reports?

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    1. Are you kidding?
      Home page (cityofsierramadre.com), left hand side of the page, in green, menu choices. First choice.

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    2. Just don't go diggin' 'round for no old stuff.

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    3. Right, 5:26. The old stuff is coming. They couldn't include all previous records in one pass.

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    4. It is under City Hall, don't see any green, but click on city hall and the agenda page comes up.

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