OPINION — The Utah Public Service Commission will hold its final set of hearings this week on the value of rooftop solar power in Utah.
With the growing popularity of rooftop solar, monopoly utilities like Rocky Mountain Power increasingly view renewable energy generation as lost revenue to corporate stockholders. RMP is lobbying the PSC for permission to implement a rate increase on solar customers in order to discourage further investment in solar energy.
RMP argues that those who have invested in renewable energy to reduce or eliminate their power bill no longer pay enough for operating costs.
This simplistic view ignores many benefits that solar provides to the power company and all ratepayers. Rooftop solar power is produced and consumed in the neighborhood, this prevents long distance transmission line power losses and reduces strain on the grid.
Solar panels produce electricity most efficiently near peak load periods, resulting in a smoother demand curve helping to prevent power outages. Solar providers have invested their own money to put the sun’s energy into the electrical grid lessening the need to invest in additional power plants.
Perhaps the greatest value of solar has been judged irrelevant. During previous hearings, RMP lawyers argued, and the PSC agreed that environmental benefits of solar and other renewable energy sources are unquantifiable and should not be a factor in these proceedings. Ironically the new federal Clean Power Plan does just that by placing pollution limits on power companies at 870 million tons.
Americans increasingly understand the environmental, health and other social advantages of switching from fossil fuels to renewables. The fossil fuel industry denies these impacts and refuses to take responsibility for the harm it is causing. Will the PSC be a party to this denial?
Citizens can voice their support for clean, solar energy on Thursday, Oct. 8. at the Heber M. Wells Building, 160 E. 300 South, in Salt Lake City. There’s a rally at 4 p.m. followed by an open public hearing at 5 p.m.
You can comment to the Public Service Commission: email@example.com
Subject: Docket 14-035-114
More details are available online.
Submitted by Richard A. Petty, Salt Lake City
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