Rocky Mountain Power proposes rate increases for solar customers

Cedar City, Utah, July 5, 2016 | Photo by Paul Dail, St. George News / Cedar City News

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.

Rocky Mountain Power's Utah service area | Image courtesy of Rocky Mountain Power, St. George News
Rocky Mountain Power’s Utah service area | Image courtesy of Rocky Mountain Power, St. George News | Click image to enlarge

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.”

Details

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.

Written public comments will be accepted throughout the process and can be submitted to the Public Service Commission by email at psc@utah.gov, by mail or in person at this address:

Public Service Commission

Heber M. Wells Building

160 East 300 South

Salt Lake City, Utah, 84111

Email: japplegate@stgnews.com

Twitter: @STGnews

Copyright St. George News, SaintGeorgeUtah.com LLC, 2016, all rights reserved.

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5 Comments

  • BIG GUY November 19, 2016 at 5:37 am

    Don’t be fooled that the Utah Solar Energy Association is pro- consumer. It is composed of solar panel installation contractors who benefit from the government-subsidized free ride currently in place. Figuring out what rate is fair for homeowners with rood top solar panels is tricky: I have no comment on RMP’s proposed rates. But those with solar panels must expect to pay something for their continuing use of the power delivery infrastructure. They already get an income tax break on solar panel purchase; do they really believe they should also be subsidized by their neighbors on an ongoing basis?

  • outsider_100@hotmail.com November 19, 2016 at 8:28 am

    We may question the exact dollar value of the subsidy, but it is only fair that the credit for solar power sold back to the “grid” be adjusted to the cost of generation. The infrastructure costs are generally fixed and must be maintained due to the intermittent nature of solar.

    Those folks with existing installations are lucky that they will continue to enjoy this unfair “subsidy”. Let’s have solar and wind stand on their own, if possible. Hardware and installation costs have continued to drop, and efficiency has improved.

  • debbie November 19, 2016 at 10:32 am

    Hold up. i’m not getting paid for the telephone pole in my yard or easement i can’t use so rocky mountain power can? they don’t pay me rent? that costs me. seriously. if i was a farmer that would cost me alot more.. doesn’t the power companies get grants and credits and tax deferments or credits for allowing the use of solar? yet they are going to charge customers b/c they are hooked to the same things other power customers are? that doesn’t make any sense. so, renewable energy isn’t something rocky mountain power is really going purse? they are happy with how they create / reserve / use power and they don’t want to encourage more people to use it? they can’t meet with local representatives and figure out a way to reward those that are SAVING THE EARTH. we are now going to FINE those who are working harder to preserve the earth for the next generation? solar companies really knock it to people.. it can cost up to 20 grand to install those panels not to mention upkeep.. the customers are touted to be saving in the long run by their reduced light bills and your going to take that away from them. oh man. i’d be so mad if i was a solar customer.

  • .... November 19, 2016 at 11:16 am

    ha ha ! go solar it cheaper ! ha ha

  • Robert November 20, 2016 at 8:07 am

    Remember folks, MoveOn.org is one of the most RADICAL liberal anti America groups in the United States. The benefactor of their petition is NOT the solar or NON solar customer, but is the solar industry dealers and installers. Do NOT allow the solar industry to drive the bus. Do your own research and make a truly educated and informed decision on who this will benefit, the solar user or NON solar user.

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