Rocky Mountain Power’s (RMP) proposal to slash the value of exported rooftop solar remains under heated debate.
Based on the most recent filing on July 15, RMP hasn’t budged on their assertion that their proposed value of roughly 1.5 cents is “fair” to the homes and businesses that export solar power to the grid. Utah Clean Energy and several others countered this proposal by submitting evidence and arguments to the Utah Public Service Commission demonstrating the fact that RMP’s proposed value does not include widely acknowledged and quantifiable benefits of rooftop solar.
Evidence Shows a Higher Value for Rooftop Solar
The sticking point in this proceeding comes down to what is — and is not — included in RMP’s analysis of the costs and benefits from exported rooftop solar energy. Data from two separate studies conducted by Vote Solar and Vivint Solar each show a significantly higher value for exported solar energy than RMP’s.
- Vote Solar included a comprehensive review of the costs and benefits of rooftop solar and identified a value of 22 cents per kilowatt hour.
- Vivint Solar looked at more narrow scope of costs and benefits, but still found that the value of exported solar is at least 9.2 cents per kilowatt hour – the current rate for exported solar energy for residential customers.
Clearly, RMP’s solar value is far too low. It is particularly egregious that RMP continues to argue that rooftop solar should receive no added value for a variety of benefits it provides to the grid, from capacity to transmission and distribution system value. This makes no sense! Rooftop solar exported to the electricity grid helps meet Utah’s growing energy demand, thereby avoiding the need to build new, costly energy resources. This is in addition to the air quality, climate, and health benefits that solar energy provides to our entire community. These are just a few of nearly a dozen different benefit categories that Utah Clean Energy continues to argue should be considered in the solar valuation.
Given the comprehensive evidence that exported solar energy provides value that is close to, if not above, the retail rate for electricity, Utah Clean Energy continues to oppose a reduction in the export credit rate. We also believe that it would be reasonable for the Commission to approve a return to traditional net metering (a one-to-one kilowatt-hour credit).
Jobs, Jobs, Jobs
We cannot forget the impact that such a severe reduction in the solar export credit would have on Utah’s economy. There are approximately 7,000 people employed in the solar industry in Utah today. If the Utah Public Service Commission were to accept RMPs proposed cuts – and worse – implement those rate changes immediately, most of the solar companies doing business in Utah would disappear overnight. If a reduced solar export credit is implemented, we have strongly urged the Public Service Commission to make this change gradual, over time to give Utah’s solar industry a fighting chance for survival.
Solar Value Aside, Rates Need to Make Sense to Customers
No matter what the value of the final solar export credit rate is, it will still be challenging to install solar in Utah if customers cannot understand the rate or how it impacts their energy savings. To that end, we have presented a proposal for rate design that will ensure the solar export credit rate is comprehensible, regardless of the final value. This includes locked-in pricing for 20 years, and a simplified way of calculating solar exports to help customers understand their energy usage and exports.
All eyes are now on the Utah Public Service Commission. The final round of testimony is due on September 15, and the hearing will begin on September 29th. A Public Hearing is scheduled for October 5, where members of the public can weigh in with your comments to the Commission.
We encourage all Utahns to attend the public hearing, which will be held virtually, to show your support for the fair treatment of rooftop solar. In the meantime, you can also contact the Utah Public Service Commission by emailing (include docket # 17-035-61 in the subject line), urging them to consider a return to net metering. We encourage you to utilize any of the above points, and our Renewable Energy Program Manager, Kate Bowman, is available to provide additional information or answer your questions. Please email kate@utahcleanenergy to learn more.