In a likely setback to solar industry expansion in Utah, utility Rocky Mountain Power has proposed three new changes would raise rates for all new solar customers. Set to go into effect Dec. 9, 2016, rates are to be separated into a $15.00 fixed monthly charge, $9.02 per kilowatt for high demand hours and 3.81 cents per kilowatt-hour for the amount of electricity each residential solar customer uses. Additionally, the utility has proposed a $60 application fee for most new net-metered customers to cover the expense of processing applications which the utility claimed cost it $650,000 in 2015.
"Consumer access to rooftop solar is a tremendous asset for Utah’s future. It creates jobs and economic growth while contributing to a cleaner, more resilient energy system. Rocky Mountain Power’s recent filing isn’t just a step backward, it is a leap in the wrong direction. While we recognize we may need to make changes to net metering, this draconian proposal will hurt Utahans for years to come," Sarah Wright, executive director of Utah Clean Energy told KSL .
Rocky Mountain power submitted a study to the Utah Public Service Commission claiming that the increase of the current rate structure for residential solar customers is not sustainable and shifts transmission and administrative costs of $667 million over the next 20 years to customers that do not rely on renewable energy for their electricity or participate in community solar farm programs. It also claimed that each private residential solar customer is underpaying $400 per year for use of the utilities grid infrastructure.
"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," said Greg Hoogeveen, Rocky Mountain Power's senior vice president and chief commercial officer. "Customers partially relying on renewable energy through the net metering program must still pay their fair share of the costs to serve them.”
Rocky Mountain Power’s rate hike proposal comes as a setback and a slap in the face to environmental and solar industry advocates of residential solar development in Utah at a time when the solar industry is one of the state’s fastest growing economic sectors. Unfortunately, Utah is not the only state to experience policy and rate increases to block access and progress to the exponential growth of the solar industry.
Vivint Solar Interim CEO David Bywater told KSL rate changes imposed in the neighboring state of Nevada quashed 99 percent of potential new solar rooftop installations, forcing many major solar installers to leave the state. "For us, we think it is an outrageous and unfair move by a monopoly. This is substantially more onerous,” said Bywater.Tweet