PA Environmental Lobbyist Misleads

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Tuesday, January 4, 2011
Contact: Paul Chesser, [email protected] or (202)670-2680

Pa. Environmental Lobbyist Misleads on Renewables

In a response to an op-ed written by the American Tradition Institute’s Paul Chesser that called for a repeal of Pennsylvania’s Alternative Energy Portfolio Standard, The Patriot-News in Harrisburg, Pa. over the weekend ran a letter to the editor by Jan Jarrett, the president of Citizens for Pennsylvania’s Future (PennFuture).

Jarrett, who was discovered last year to have hidden PennFuture’s lobbying expenditures and grassroots lobbying efforts from the IRS , ignored the facts Chesser presented that highlighted the increased costs caused by renewables mandates while delivering no overall benefits, environmental or otherwise. Instead Jarrett delivered her own flawed data points in her letter to the Patriot-News:

Ironically, the same day The Patriot-News ran Chesser’s opinion, the Philadelphia Inquirer was reporting the fact that electricity customers in the PECO service territory will be able to buy 100 percent renewable electricity at a price that is 6 percent lower than PECO’s standard price.

A careful reading of the Inquirer article showed Jarrett fudged the facts. For example, the story noted:

The best fixed (PECO electricity) rates offered for a one-year term are about 8.9 cents per kilowatt-hour, roughly 10 percent below Peco’s price to compare. A typical residential customer who uses 750 kilowatt-hours a month would save $90 a year….

But at least two suppliers are offering 100 percent renewable power at fixed prices for one year: BlueStar Energy Solutions, an Illinois supplier, is offering 9.348 cents per kilowatt-hour – almost 6 percent less than Peco’s default rate. And the Energy Cooperative Association of Pennsylvania, a nonprofit group, is offering 9.79 cents per kilowatt-hour.

Both rates have conditions. BlueStar will assess a cancellation fee for customers who opt out early – $10 for each month left in the contract. And the Energy Cooperative requires a $15 annual membership fee.

So in her letter to the Patriot-News, Jarrett compared the one-year lock-in commitment rate of two renewable electricity providers to the basic off-the-shelf rate (no one-year lock-in) provided by PECO. But if she made an honest apples-to-apples comparison, Jarrett would have instead cited (see Inquirer excerpt above) the "best fixed rates offered for a one-year term" provided by PECO (8.9 cents per kilowatt-hour), which beat the one-year renewable rates by .45 cents and .9 cents per kilowatt-hour, respectively.

Digging deeper, these artificially low rates for renewables clearly represent loss leaders for Energy Cooperative and BlueStar. They are operating similar to the way cable and satellite television companies do: They lock you into a contract at a low rate, and then when the introductory phase is over, the rates go up with the hope that customers don’t go to the trouble to switch to a competitor.

Also, Energy Cooperative is primarily a heating oil provider, while the renewable energy they sell is a comparatively small portion of their overall sales. According to their most recent 990 tax return available on Guidestar, the nonprofit reported $8,730,042 in heating oil sales and commissions. Meanwhile electricity sales were $1,658,058 and wind energy sales were a meager $3,079. Membership dues taken in were $31,955.

So looking at Energy Cooperative’s revenue mix, while considering that only a fraction of its electricity sales were attributable to renewables (they also have a 20 percent renewable/80 percent traditional fuels electricity sales plan), the coop can easily absorb the loss that their 100 percent renewable electricity plan would cost.

So what is subsidizing Energy Cooperative’s losses on renewables? Their heating oil sales, which continue to belch those greenhouse gases that Jan Jarrett so despises. Is this really an advancement in their effort to fight global warming?

For an interview with the American Tradition Institute’s Paul Chesser, contact him at 202-670-2680 or [email protected].