Sierra Club criticizes utility’s solar charge plan

SPRINGFIELD, Mo. (AP) — A plan to charge more for customers who want to get their energy from a new solar farm is moving ahead despite criticism from two members of the local Sierra Club.

Judy Dasovich, a Springfield resident who is president of the White River Group of the Missouri Sierra Club, told members of City Utilities’ Citizens’ Advisory Council on Thursday that the group supports the solar farm but doesn’t agree that customers should pay “significantly more for using clean energy,” The Springfield News-Leader reported.

“Why is solar being singled out?” Dasovich asked.

Dasovich and another Sierra Club member were the only members of the public to address the council. After the public hearing and briefings on the proposal by utility staffers, the advisory council unanimously approved the plan, which would still need the approval of the Board of Public Utilities and Springfield City Council.

The new solar farm, which has an output capacity of 4,950 kilowatts, is the largest in Missouri.

Cara Shaefer, the utility’s director of energy services and renewables, said the cost of producing the solar energy is now about twice the cost of using coal and 1.5 times the cost of using natural gas.

CU has estimated that the average residential customer would pay about $45 more per month based on 2015 rates to be fully sourced by the solar farm. Customers would be able to subscribe for between 1 and 200 kilowatts.

The utility believes the proposed rate is competitive.

“We believe that we can install this solar installation in a large scale cheaper than they can do on a local basis,” CU General Manager Scott Miller told council.

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