As chief financial officer of Vermont Electric Cooperative, my primary job is to manage the cooperative’s financial well-being. As an electric cooperative, our members are also our owners. We work for the interests of our members without the pressure from investors to be more profitable.
Several years ago, the Co-op wanted to create a Co-op Community Solar program that provided benefits to all members. We took a hard look at the numbers. Would this be a good program for our members? Would this be a good deal for the Co-op as a whole? The answer, it turned out, was "yes" to both.
Since we launched our Co-op Community Solar program in 2016, more than 150 members have signed up to sponsor solar panels in one of our community solar arrays. In exchange for helping to put clean electricity onto the grid, these members receive guaranteed, fixed monthly bill credits. Better still, the whole membership benefits from this lower-cost renewable energy resource.
One of the members who signed up to participate in the new program was me. Not only am I an employee, but my family and I are also member-owners of the Co-op, too. We chose to sponsor 12 panels for 10 years (though members can choose many different levels of participation). We made an upfront payment of $2,817, and, over the 10-year term, we will get nearly $3,917 back in bill credits for a savings of nearly $1,100. We love the guaranteed savings, and we also like that this program is zero hassle and very flexible. In addition to the financial benefits, the program required no installation on my property, so renters or those owners who do not have a suitable site on their property, can participate. And if you ever leave VEC territory, you can get a portion of your initial investment back.
I have spent my professional life managing finances. For me personally, the math for the Co-op Community Solar program works, and it works for lots of other members, too. If you’re a VEC member and have not checked out the program, I urge you to do so. You can find more at: www.vermontelectric.coop/programs-services/co-op-community-solar or call Member Services at 800-832-2667.
Mike Bursell is the chief financial officer at Vermont Electric Cooperative.