In November of 2016, Rocky Mountain Power proposed new fees for rooftop solar customers that, if approved, would significantly extend the payback period for a residential solar installation. Utah Clean Energy, fellow solar advocates, and industry partners quickly went into action to protect Utah’s solar future.
This is a vital utility case with several moving parts and players. We hope this webpage will serve as your hub of information with the latest developments and details of the case as it unfolds. You can also visit the Public Service Commission Page for Docket No. 14-035-114. See below for quick links to specific issues within the case.
Ruling on Dec. 9 Deadline
In a separate, albeit connected proposal, Rocky Mountain Power requested that new residential solar customers who submit net metering applications after December 9, 2016, be placed on a transitional rate structure. These customers would be able to net meter on existing rates for the time being, but any changes made to net metering rates in the future would apply to these customers. In a good news/bad news scenario, the Public Service Commission ruled to suspend the proposed new rate structure. The good news is that the transitional rate will note take effect – for now. –The bad news is uncertainty. We don’t know when the Commission will make a final determination on the transitional tariff or what they will ultimately decide. The issue has been tabled for now.
On a related note, due to the high influx of net metering applications received following its net metering proposals, the utility requested and receive a waiver of the required timelines for processing net metering interconnection applications. Prior to the waiver, Rocky Mountain Power had 25 days to evaluate an interconnection application before it was deemed approved. For an indefinite period, the Company is requesting to double the interconnection timeline (for Level 1 interconnections).
Motion to Dismiss
Several parties, including Utah Clean Energy, submitted motions to dismiss the Rocky Mountain Power rate increase proposal for rooftop solar. As a regulated Utility, Rocky Mountain Power has an obligation to file a general rate case in order to change rates for its customers. Rocky Mountain Power is proposing to change net metering customers’ rates outside of a general rate case, which means the necessary data and analytical framework cannot be met. Several other interveners in this case also submitted a motion to dismiss on similar grounds. The Public Service Commission is expected to rule on this issue by the end of March 2017. Click here for our submitted motion.
Details on Proposed Rate Changes for Rooftop Solar Customers
As mentioned, the Public Service Commission will consider the below proposed changes over the coming months. Click here for the timeline for this process. As a formal intervener in the rooftop solar net metering case, Utah Clean Energy’s experts will be delving into analysis, submitting testimony and providing technical witnesses to make the case for fair treatment of rooftop solar.
Under Rocky Mountain Power’s proposal, new solar customers would pay:
- $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 electricity (compared to an average of 10.7 cents)
Some Math and Examples
In addition to the fixed fees, Rocky Mountain Power will look at a solar household's electrical use for an entire month, find the hour during “on peak” times in which power use peaked, and then multiply the kilowatts of power used during that single hour by $9.02. Of course, more energy efficient solar customers may pay less, and some solar customers will pay much, much more. Let’s look at some scenarios using this math:
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.
Take Action and Next Steps
As a formal intervener in the rooftop solar net metering case before the Public Service Commission, Utah Clean Energy’s experts will be delving into analysis, submitting testimony and providing technical witnesses to make the case for fair treatment of rooftop solar.
This case will be ongoing throughout August of 2017, with a Public Hearing on August 9, 2017. In addition to the below actions that can be taken today, please email if you would like to stay engaged and get more involved as the regulatory proceeding on this issue moves forward. In the meantime, there are a variety of ways to get involved and make your voice heard in support of solar in Utah.
Sign the Utah Solar Energy Association Petition
The Utah Solar Energy Association has a petition with thousands of signatories in support of solar. Click here to add your name to this petition.
Write a letter to the editor. For solar and non-solar homeowners, voice your concerns about this proposal and that you want to see rates that encourage personal investment in rooftop solar. Depending on where you live, consider one or more of these outlets:
- Deseret News: http://deseretnews.wufoo.com/forms/m7x3z9/
- Salt Lake Tribune: http://www.sltrib.com/opinion/submitaletter/
- Park Record: http://www.parkrecord.com/opinion/send-a-letter/
- Standard Examiner: http://www.standard.net/letters
Email the Public Service Commission: The Utah Public Service Commission is the body that will ultimately rule on this issue. You can submit comments to the commission via email and include the docket number in the subject line: Docket No. 14-035-114.
Timeline for Rooftop Solar Regulatory Docket