Net Metering and Valuing Rooftop Solar

Net Metering and Valuing Rooftop Solar

Because Rocky Mountain Power is a monopoly, it has to request permission from the Utah Public Service Commission if it wants to change its prices (aka electricity rates). Utah Clean Energy wants your electricity rates to reflect good policy—that is, we want to see price signals (for all you economics geeks out there) that encourage smart energy behaviors, like energy efficiency, electric plug-in vehicles, and rooftop solar.

The Latest
You likely remember all the hubbub last summer when Rocky Mountain Power requested a new fee for rooftop solar customers, arguing that solar customers aren't paying their fair share to connect to the grid. Utah Clean Energy and hundreds of others pushed back on this premise and won the day when the Utah Public Service Commission denied the fee pending an analysis of the costs and benefits of rooftop solar. As the saying goes, be careful what you wish for!

Experts and Advocates Convene for Net Metering Working Groups
The analysis begins with a series of working groups to delve into the challenges, solutions and opportunities that come with integrating rooftop solar into our energy system. Its technical, its complex, and oh so important for the future of solar energy in Utah! This is the stage in which we can safeguard Utah's burgeoning solar industry from future attacks, and pave the way for countless more Utah families and businesses to go solar. As of May 12th, we have had two of the four working group meetings that will be held during the summer. And as your advocates for clean energy, Utah Clean Energy is heavily involved in every section of the process. For the energy nerds reading this, below is an update on the more technical aspects of the first two working groups. 

2nd Working Group Convened May 12th
The topics of the second workgroup were (1) cost-benefit analyses and (2) how NEM is evaluated and valued through existing utility planning analyses, including IRP and Cost of Service studies.  Dr. Thomas Vitolo with Synapse provided an overview of cost and benefit categories that can be considered in a net metering cost-benefit analysis.  Jason Keyes  with IREC outlined the key differences between a cost-benefit analysis and a cost of service study and highlighted best practices for both.  A cost of service study is designed to determine the cost of providing electricity service to a particular class of customers to help set rates for each class of customer based on how they use energy.  A cost-benefit analysis takes a broader look at the costs and benefits of net metering, including benefits like avoiding line losses, providing grid support, and avoiding or deferring transmission and distribution investments.

Download Thomas Vitolo’s presentation

Download Jason Keyes’ presentation

First Working Group - Who Can Talk Utility Distribution for 7 Hours?
We can!  The first working group kicked off by focusing on challenges and opportunities related to solar and utility distribution. Essentially, how rooftop solar is different from other sources of power, how the utility gets power from source to customer, and what impacts increased rooftop solar will have on this process. 

Seizing Rooftop Solar Potential - If They Can Do It, So Can We
For our contribution, Utah Clean Energy brought in two technical experts to give presentations of lessons learned by areas like Hawaii and California that are seizing their rooftop solar potential while successfully managing the impacts it has on utility transmission and distribution.  

Our expert from Clean Power Research showed how rooftop solar can actually help a utility avoid transmission and distribution costs as it provides energy on-site, thus no need to move the energy around. It may not sound like a page-turner to you, but it was a thought-provoking presentation that outlined a win-win pathway for increased solar in Utah. Click here for a pdf of the presentation.  

Background

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Staff Attorney Sophie Hayes looking inexplicably happy despite the giant stack of rate case testimony ahead of her.

The debate over Rocky Mountain Powers' highly controversial proposal for a $4.65 solar fee included 6 rounds of testimony, countless meetings and thousands of community advocates.  If you are interested, you can check out all of the related testimony and documents here including the testimony of Sarah Wright and Rick Gilliam on behalf of Utah Clean Energy.

In July, Utah Clean Energy submitted the last round of testimony followed by two days Public Service Commission hearing: cross examining witnesses and undergoing cross-examination regarding our testimony advocating for a fair shake for rooftop solar. 

The public hearing followed and we were thrilled with the amazing turnout! Approximately 60+ citizens participated in the public hearing, voicing opposition to the proposed solar fee. These participants included Utahns with and without solar, retirees, doctors, parents, businesses and concerned citizens of all ages.

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