Wednesday, October 3, 2007

How much is free?

From Penny Davis, Ellis County resident:

As I was reflecting on Iberdrola’s offer of “free electricity” to the many landowners living with the effects of but not profiting from the proposed turbines, I was reminded of a saying I once heard, “when it sounds too good to be true, the cost is hidden”. We all know there is no such thing as a free lunch. Likewise, I wonder how much this “free” electricity going to cost my family?

To begin with, I must point out that the offer really isn't for free electricity. Consistent with our experience of Iberdrola’s behavior in this project, there is much more to know than they are publicly disclosing. The offer is actually based on the month’s electricity bill prior to signing the contract. For instance, if we sign in October, we will be paid a set amount per month, based on our bill in September. This, of course, will not work out to “free” electricity. This year has been a particularly cool year and we didn’t run our air conditioning in September at all. Even in more normal years, the months of May through August typically dwarf the bills of September through April. Therefore the actual reimbursement will be far less than our annual electricity cost.

More to the issue at hand, when they finally delivered this offer (months after announcing it and after the commission vote), they had not discussed it with us or other landowners in the area. If they had taken the time to actually work with us, they would have discovered we don’t want their money. As it stands, even a genuine offer of free electricity will cost us more than we can afford to pay.

What we want from Iberdrola is assurance they will stand by their word. We need assurance that the turbines will not harm our children. We want assurance that they will not devastate our finances by making our largest singe investment (our home) less valuable or desirable on the market. We want assurance that we will not be subjected to daily annoyances that have driven others living with turbines out of their homes. We need assurance that they will not destroy the quality of life for which we paid a premium and searched for years to be able to acquire. This assurance, however, is something they refuse to offer. Instead, Iberdrola asks us to do the opposite by signing away all our assurance in order to receive the “free electricity”.

They tell everyone that all of the things we fear, things such as health effects, noise, flicker, property devaluation, etc, are not real concerns. Meanwhile, they ask us to sign a document giving them the right to do these things (and more) to us in exchange for “free electricity”. All we want is a guarantee that what they tell everyone is true. Instead, they make us an offer we can’t possibly afford to take and present it as being neighborly.

If Iberdola is trustworthy, they should simply do what most manufacturers do when selling a quality product, offer a guarantee. If everything they are telling the community about the project and the turbines is true, they can keep their “free electricity”, increase their profits and offer more money to the county. The residents living with the turbines will have assurance they will not be destroyed by the project. Everyone wins.

Of course, if the Commissioners are wise, they will ask Iberdrola for a similar guarantee that this choice of location will not harm the County or the city of Hays . If they do, my bet is that Iberdrola will refuse, as they have refused to assure the people living with their proposed project. Instead, they’ll encourage the county to waive what legal protections they have, all in exchange for “free” money. Then if the project is approved, we’ll all pay the long term cost of what was sold to us as “free”.

Submitted by:
Penny Davis
Hays, KS

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