Nashville Electric Services leader expected to invest in solar power

  • Jason Carney is the executive director of the Tennessee Solar Energy Association

Currently, NES management is conducting a confidential search to replace its current leader with the help of its board members. Management found several interested candidates internally and externally. Finalists will be made public and interviewed by NES board members, ultimately leading to a selection.

It’s been nearly 18 years since the Nashville Electric Service (NES) chose a new president and CEO. No member of management or board staff held their current position 18 years ago.

The current CEO, Mr. Decosta Jenkins, would have to describe what NES and the electrical board were looking for at that time. What we do know is that climate change was a growing concern in 2004.

Russia and Canada would ratify the Kyoto Protocol the same year, bringing the treaty into effect in 2005. Even so, the United States was more gripped by the war in Iraq than by the ominous, existential threat of climate change. In retrospect, the 2004 NES missed an opportunity to address climate change and sustainability when the challenges were less daunting.

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Make the right choice

Today, NES can choose its next leader with climate change becoming an integral part of the local, state, and national conversation. The next NES leader should be someone who understands the conversation and feels responsible for helping lead Nashville to a future consistent with the city’s drive to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 80% from 2014 levels by 2050.

Flying into Nashville with its rapidly developing landscape, the limitless potential of the rooftops is surprising. Rooftop solar can be a powerful tool to help us achieve our goals, but right now rooftop solar is discouraged by unprecedented fees and the removal of net metering.

There is a $375 signup fee and monthly fee based on the program you choose. Behind the Meter (BTM) or Dispersed Power Program (DPP). The fees are unfair, discriminatory and unnecessary.

These new solar fees are either $9/month ($2,700 in 25 years) or $29/month ($8,700 in 25 years).

Even without the fees, NES benefits from every new rooftop solar system. Solar home owners provide NES with their excess solar power generation for free (BTM) or at wholesale price (DPP) and NES profits when they resell it at retail price.

Thus, solar customers do not weigh on the revenues of the NES. While customers who install solar power reduce their electricity bills, they still pay service charges and fuel cost riders on their bill.

Would NES be justified in imposing additional charges on customers who install high-efficiency appliances to reduce their electricity bills?

The fee is punitive for solar customers, especially middle income customers, as the monthly fee consumes the first 2-3 panels in production each month. These customers are making a big investment with a good heart, but their system may be only 3-4 kilowatts (kW) or about 8-10 panels.

Monthly fees could eat up almost 40% of what they would have saved. 4kW may represent only 25% of their electricity bill. This means that their investment would only reduce their bill by about 10%.

Additionally, NES could use savings from its 20-year contract with TVA to help offset or eliminate the fee.

Since NES is under contract to buy all of its electricity from the Tennessee Valley Authority (TVA), TVA has an outsized role in how Nashville will meet its climate goals. Because NES is Nashville’s liaison between the city and TVA, the next CEO will have an important opportunity to be our advocate for more renewable energy and energy efficiency.

We hope the new CEO will urge Nashvillians to reduce our greenhouse gas emissions and be a strong advocate for more solar power, especially on rooftops.

Jason Carney is the executive director of the Tennessee Solar Energy Association