A Small Victory For Utah Solar

A photo of a Solar PV system installed in Park City, Utah in 2016

A photo of a Solar PV system installed in Park City, Utah in 2016

The Utah Public Service Commission has officially suspended Rocky Mountain Power’s request to increase charges for net metering in Utah. The suspension came at the request of Rocky Mountain Power, after filing a letter with the commission on Friday December 9th,  2016. 

The letter states that “the Company has been involved in preliminary discussions with stakeholders to engage in further dialogue and explore mutually-acceptable resolutions.” but the “parties have not been able to reach agreement” prior to proposed effective date of December 10th, 2016. 

According to Standard Examiner, “the tariff proposal would have raised the average solar customer’s bill by $19 per month”. 

In a statement, Utah Clean Energy said, “This proposal was confusing to the public and created needless disruptions in the solar market before a substantive investigation into Rocky Mountain Power’s proposed changes has even begun.”.

Utah Clean Energy makes it clear that even though the tariff increases won’t take effect, it is only temporary. UCE states, “New net metering customers will go on the regular net metering tariff – for now. We do not know when the Commission will make a final determination on the transitional tariff ”.

While this is a small victory for Utah solar, Rocky Mountain Power has also proposed other changes to net metering that would substantially increase the payback time of Solar PV systems in Utah, if approved. Rocky Mountain Power has proposed the following changes to net metering and peak usage:

  • $15/month service charge (compared to $6/month)
  • $9.02 per kilowatt demand charge for “on-peak” demand: May-September is 3:00-8:00 pm, M-F (excluding holidays); October-April is 8:00-10:00 am and 3:00-8:00 pm
  • 3.81 cents per kilowatt hour for solar generated electricity (compared to an average of 10.7 cents)

Utah Clean Energy has done the math for some common scenarios and how the proposed changes would affect new solar customers. 

    “Simplified and Low Energy Use Scenario: If a solar customer used a maximum of 3kW demand during an on-peak hour in a given month, we take $9.02 X 3 = $27.06 for their on-peak demand that month. Add the fixed fee of $15 a month and the average new rooftop solar customer will pay $42 a month before purchasing any energy from the Utility beyond what their panels produce, including credits for excess solar energy contributed to the grid.

Electric vehicle scenario: If our 3kW solar customer from the example above were also an electric car owner, we see significant increases. If they charge their car using a level II charger—drawing 6 kW of power—during on-peak hours, in addition to their 3 kW on-peak load (a total of 9kW), they will pay $9.02 X 9 = $81.18 for their on-peak demand that month. Add the fixed fee of $15, and the electric car owner will be paying a whopping $96 in fixed fees, not including the cost of the energy they purchase. 

On top these new charges, the excess solar energy solar customers put into the grid will be less valuable. Solar customers will pay the Utility a lower energy rate for the energy they use (3.81 cents/kWh versus 10.7 cents); and while that might sound good, it actually devalues solar energy because it means the kilowatt-for-kilowatt credit you receive from the utility is only worth 3.81 cents. This will make it harder for homeowners to make an investment in rooftop solar pencil out, and it will make it much harder for solar companies to do business in Utah.”

This case will be ongoing until August of 2017 with a public hearing scheduled for August 9th, 2017. If you want to take action, add your name to this petition

If you're interested in making the switch to solar, use our solar calculator below to see what your savings would be under the current net metering terms. We encourage customers to sign up under the current net metering terms because of the decreased payback times and incredible total savings.

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Interested in seeing if your home is eligible for solar? Schedule a free energy consultation and one of our master electricians can walk you through the options that are available for your home and prepare a personalized savings report and quote.