ST. GEORGE – Rocky Mountain Power is proposing changes to its net-metering policy for customers who have solar power but are still connected to the power grid.
The proposed changes, which would only apply to new rooftop solar customers, would increase costs for rooftop solar owners and decrease costs for those without solar.
The Utah Public Service Commission must approve any rate changes.
Rocky Mountain Power asserts that under the current net-metering rate structure, customers without rooftop solar are subsidizing those with solar power, company information states.
“Rocky Mountain Power supports renewable resources as long as an appropriate rate is in place that allows customers to use private generation without adversely affecting other residential customers,” Gary Hoogeveen, Rocky Mountain Power senior vice-president, said in a statement.
“Customers partially relying on renewable energy through the net-metering program must still pay their fair share of the costs to serve them.”
With the price of solar panels dropping, utility companies including municipalities have been wrangling with rate structures that are fair to solar customers and non-solar customers.
Net metering is a system in which a customer only pays for the net power that they use in a month – what they actually use, less the amount they put back into the system. However, there are often fees imposed to cover the costs of infrastructure such as wires, substations, transformers and more.
Rooftop solar customers are currently paying about $400 less per year than the actual cost of providing service; the proposal seeks to make the system more equitable, Rocky Mountain Power information states.
Residential net metering customers now receive bill savings worth about 10.5 cents per kilowatt-hour of electricity they produce even though the energy company could purchase the same amount of electricity from large solar farms for about 3 to 4 cents, officials said.
Rocky Mountain Power is proposing changes in rates that will result in bill savings of about 7.1 cents per kilowatt-hour. This reflects the benefits from both the produced kilowatt hours and the reduction of the customer’s demand.
Rocky Mountain Power is also proposing a new $60 application fee for most net metering customers to cover the actual costs of processing the applications.
Opponents of the proposal include the Utah Solar Energy Association which is calling the proposed rate change “the most aggressive, anti-consumer, anti-competitive and anti-solar proposal ever made” by a utility in the United States.
The solar group said the proposal would be bad for air quality, consumers and the solar industry. The group is promoting a MoveOn.org petition against the proposed changes.
The proposal is in the early stages of being reviewed by the Utah Public Service Commission. The first step in the several-month process was a scheduling conference held Thursday, Gary Widenburg of the Public Service Commission said.
“That’s kind of the first step where all the parties got together to decide what – in terms of what testimony – would be due, the hearing dates and so forth.”
The scheduling notes are expected to be released Friday or Monday, Widenburg said. A general hearing will be scheduled along with a public witness hearing – which won’t be held for several months, possibly early August.
“This is not an overnight process. This is a major proposal that RMP’s making,” Widenburg said. “We’re just at the very beginning. We just received this last week.”
The proposal is titled, “The Investigation of the Costs and Benefits of PacifiCorp’s Net Metering Program,” and can be found here.
Complete and regularly updated information on the proposal, Docket No. 14-035-114, can be found on the Public Service Commission’s Electric Dockets webpage.
Public Service Commission
Heber M. Wells Building
160 East 300 South
Salt Lake City, Utah, 84111
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