ST. GEORGE – The Utah Public Service Commission has suspended a cutoff date for Rocky Mountain Power customers that required them to sign up for solar power right away in order to avoid a proposed rate increase.
“On Dec. 9, 2016, the Utah Public Service Commission issued a ruling to delay a decision on when new net metering rates would come into effect. This allows time for a mutually agreeable solution to be reached,” Rocky Mountain officials said in a statement.
Rocky Mountain Power is proposing a new rate structure that would cost solar customers more than they currently pay. Customers originally had until Dec. 9 to submit net-metering applications for rooftop solar and be grandfathered in under the old rate structure.
But after receiving the request from Rocky Mountain Power, the commission issued an order suspending a decision on when any new net-metering rates would take effect.
“At this time it’s still unknown what might happen,” Public Service Commission secretary Gary Widenburg said.
“We’ll wait for the company to provide a response or to come up with additional information.”
A new date could be chosen, but it is still possible that the Dec. 9 cutoff date for new solar customers will be mandated, Widenburg said. A week-long public hearing set for August 2017 is still on schedule, he said.
“I don’t know what will happen,” Widenburg said. “I don’t have an answer in terms of if there will be a new date chosen or what will be proposed.”
Rocky Mountain Power’s proposed changes to its net-metering policy would increase costs for those with rooftop solar power and decrease costs for nonsolar customers. The Public Service Commission must approve any rate changes.
According to the nonprofit Utah Clean Energy, Rocky Mountain’s proposal would raise a monthly service charge for new solar customers from $6 to $15 per month, impose a $9.02 per kilowatt charge for peak demand times and make other changes.
Critics such as Utah Solar Energy Association say the changes would significantly extend the payback period for a solar installation.
The group believes the proposed rate increases will harm the industry, eliminate consumer choice, stifle economic growth and put thousands of Utah jobs in jeopardy. They are promoting a MoveOn.org petition against the proposed changes.
Rocky Mountain Power, on the other hand, said that under the current net-metering rate structure, nonsolar customers are subsidizing those with solar power.
The Public Service Commission has issued schedule and hearing dates for the proposed rate increase, which was filed by PacifiCorp, the parent company of Rocky Mountain Power.
A public witness hearing will be held Aug. 9, 2017, and a public hearing is set for the week of Aug. 14-18, 2017, in Salt Lake City.
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 firstname.lastname@example.org or by mail or in person at the following address:
Public Service Commission
Heber M. Wells Building
160 East 300 South
Salt Lake City, Utah, 84111