Solar Power Battle Continues Through Billboards

Solar Power Battle Continues Through Billboards

Max Rodriguez

The battle of solar power continues, this time in a form of billboards, the Imperial Irrigation District is being criticized for its solar power program through several signs along the East Coachella Valley.

The billboards can be spotted on Expressway 86 and Dillon Road, they were put up by a non-profit organization named the Electric Ratepayers Alliance. The executive director of the alliance, Vincent Battaglia, owns Renova Solar and he is an open critic of IID.

In a Facebook video introducing the alliance, Battaglia said, “Have the IID put back a solar program that makes sense, one that will allow you to save money and improve your life.”

Battaglia is an open critic of IID’s net-billing solar program that pays customers about half of the whole-sale electricity rate for their excess power that goes back into the grid.

Marion Champion is a media communications officer at IID, she said, “Sometimes we get painted negatively as if we don’t have a solar program or that we don’t allow our customers to go solar but that’s not true.”

But what is true is that some local solar companies such as Renova Solar will not work with IID customers. Battaglia said his company used to install solar panels on IID customer’s roofs when they offer a net-metering program that basically buys back the extra power from customers at the retail rate of electricity.

The change in IID’s billing system prompted one of the billboards messages that reads, “Hey IID, are transparent with their billing.”

“We have yet to have anything formal from that contractor or any suggestions other than just bring back the old program,” Champion said. “And we have looked at the old program and the old program did not make sense for our rate base.”

Champion said net-billing does not work for their rate base since they charge about 50% less for electricity than Southern California Edison. But Battaglia will try to change their program anyway, he submitted an ordinance to the Riverside County Board of Supervisors to change all solar power utilities to net-metering.

Champion said, “It’s very unfortunate that the county has somewhat seem like its siding with a for profit business rather than looking to an organization like IID which puts our customers first.”

The county’s board of supervisor’s will vote on Tuesday, and the outcome could affect the way IID runs their solar power program in county territory.