LUS to buy user-produced electricity

Lafayette has yet another opportunity to step out front by leveraging its new fiber network. Tuesday’s City-Parish Council meeting put in place rules that will enable citizens to sell electricity back to LUS. With the new ordinance and an LUS supplied bi-directional meter customers can get credit for electricity that they supply the grid—effectively getting paid the going rate for electricity they produce.

The Good
That’s pretty neat; a recent story line in the Advocate focused on solar panels and other green energy with a solar power system at Lafayette Middle School playing the star role in the discussion.

Louisiana actually has some of the more encouraging laws in the nation with state tax credits that can pay half the cost of a new solar system worth $25,ooo dollars; so if you want a gadget-guy dream system the state will eventually pay for half. Even so the raw economics are not quite there yet; at least not in the city:

…Bercier said, LUS rates are low enough that the economic incentive is not great at this time.

“LUS is a hard one. They are still relatively cheap,” he said. “We are definitely never going to put them out of business.”

Of course, the price of oil will be more next year than this and the cost of solar energy continues to drop. We’re very near the break-even point nationally right now from what I read and even with the good deal we get from LUS Lafayette’s turn can’t be far behind.

The Better
All that is good green, conscientious, community-oriented, money-saving stuff. Beyond that, though, lie some pretty exciting opportunities for Lafayette to leverage its new network to do an do an even better job of reducing our carbon footprint and lowering the costs of providing power to the community.

As good as they are those bi-directional meters are the crudest and least efficient way to allow customers to take some of the burden off the electrical grid. We’ve already noted here that the real cost savings come from dealing with “peak demand”—there are huge costs associated with providing a lot of extra capacity that is only used for a week or two during the hottest—and hence most AC-intensive—days of the year. With active metering instead of merely static bi-directional recording LUS could 1) turn off high energy consuming devices (do you really need to heat your water to 150 while the temperature is 102?) 2) charge more for power at peak times–such power costs us all more to generate—and also pay more for power that is produced by individuals. (Your solar panels are likely to be producing real power while that August sun is beating down.) 3) Turn on and off small home generators. (How many Lafayette homes have a natural gas generator sitting on a pad near the AC unit post-hurricanes? Plenty.) We in Lafayette just built a brace of very expensive natural-gas fired electrical plants chiefly to supply peak demand. In fact those two plants cost twice as much as our fiber network. A cost-benefit analysis would, I suspect, reveal that firing up those residential generators very occasionally would be cheaper than building more such hugely expensive capacity. All that is something you can only do if you have your own communications network in place.

Lafayette could well lead the country in devising innovative ways to both lower the use of electricity and lower its costs by using our new network to full capacity.


Langiappe: KLFY has also produced a short story on this.

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