, Muskogee, OK

April 9, 2014

Help electric customers, companies

— Electric companies must be allowed to thrive, but customers should receive financial benefits when using alternative energy sources, too.

That’s the fine line that Oklahoma legislators must walk.

State lawmakers are considering requiring a new monthly surcharge for electricity customers with solar panels or small wind turbines.

Customers use alternative energy sources to reduce costs of buying electricity. Surplus energy generated by alternate sources can be fed back into the nationwide smart grid to be sold by electric companies to other customers.

Electric companies must maintain the smart grid as mandated by law. Companies provide and maintain the infrastructure needed by every home despite the potential for lost revenue created by a rising number of alternative energy users.

That’s why lawmakers are exploring adding the surcharge.

We are concerned that customers will lose the advantage of using alternative energy sources if they are forced to pay a surcharge. If the surcharge is high enough, customers will not save enough money to make the start-up expense worthwhile.

Alternative energy sources — such as wind power — have the potential to help the environment, too.

We want to encourage — not discourage — the use of alternative energy sources.

Electric companies received a lot of money from the federal government to help build and maintain the smart grid.

But, it is difficult to ignore the concept of companies providing the means for their demise.

We feel the Corporation Commission should take into consideration this very real dilemma.

Who should win — customers or companies?

Legislators must find a win-win for each.

Small surcharges seem reasonable to consider.

A small increase will help offset the lost revenue but shouldn’t force consumers to shy away from trying alternative energy sources.

Maybe legislators can find ways to help customers pay for the installation of the alternative sources to help offset some of the new surcharges.

That way alternative energy users will reap the benefits of lower energy costs while electric companies won’t get pinched as well.

That’s the electric high wire legislators must walk.