On February 8, 2019, Rocky Mountain Power (RMP) filed an application with the Utah Public Service Commission proposing changes to its commercial energy efficiency programs. See docket 19-035-T01.
Generally, the proposal would change the way incentives are given for commercial lighting measures from a kilowatt-hour saved basis to a per-watt reduced basis. RMP also proposed categorizing commercial customers into small, medium, and large groups based on the customers’ total energy usage, then implementing incentives based on each category.
RMP stated that these changes were designed to more effectively encourage participation among commercial customers with lower hours of operation, which could increase the total number of program participants. Further, RMP stated that these changes would provide the same level of cost effectiveness as the current incentive structure. The application also includes an expansion of incentives to add advanced control systems to rooftop HVAC units on commercial buildings, which has proven to be an important opportunity for electricity savings in recent years.
However, after receiving comments from interested parties and reviewing RMP’s proposal, the Commission issued an order suspending its decision, saying that it needs additional information about the changes to the lighting incentives before making its final decision. As a result, the Commission has declined to approve or deny the proposal and ordered a technical conference on this issue, as well as two new rounds of comments from parties.
The technical conference will take place on March 26, and comments and reply comments will be due on April 9 and April 16 respectively. Utah Clean Energy will remain engaged in this process to make sure commercial customers in Utah get the best energy efficiency incentives possible.
Rocky Mountain Power is proposing three new projects, to be funded through their “Sustainable Transportation and Energy Plan” (STEP) program, a 5-year program which can be used to fund projects related to vehicle infrastructure, clean coal research, solar development, utility-scale battery storage, and other innovative technology, economic development and air quality initiatives. The funding for these programs is collected from all customers through a small surcharge on your bill, and the Commission will have to approve each of these proposed projects individually.
First, RMP is proposing to develop an intelligent charging system to be used at Salt Lake City’s intermodal transit hub, which will serve the electric needs of light rail, electric buses, and passenger vehicle and truck traffic. Electrification of our transportation will require new infrastructure to charge the variety of electric passenger vehicles, trucks, and public transit vehicles that will hit the road in the coming years. Many of these vehicles will be capable of charging at power levels much higher than provided by today’s standard chargers. The “Intermodal Hub Project” will use intelligent algorithms to schedule and prioritize charging needs for a variety of transportation options in order to predict optimal charging times and minimize the amount of new grid infrastructure needed to serve these vehicles. The Intermodal Hub Project is a collaboration between RMP, Utah State University’s Sustainable Electrified Transportation Center and UTA. The proposed control system would be developed at USU and deployed at UTA’s Intermodal Hub in Salt Lake City. Rocky Mountain Power is asking for $1,995,576 to develop a power balance and demand response system for this project.
Second, RMP has proposed a “Battery Demand Response Project” in partnership with Wasatch Development to build a new development of 600 housing units, each with a battery that can be controlled by RMP. The batteries will be charged by solar power during the day, and RMP can control the batteries to provide power for residents of the community during peak periods in the evening and at night. The total cost of the project is estimated at $34 million, but RMP is asking for $3.27 million of STEP funding to pay for a demand response system that can be used to control the batteries. RMP also plans to use the data from the project to test and study the deployment of battery storage and to prepare for the deployment of more micro-grid solutions in the future. RMP also plans to hire a third-party consultant to quantify the benefits of the battery storage system and inform rate design for customers with batteries.
Last, RMP is proposing to use $16.2 million on an “Advanced Resiliency Management System” that will deploy new communications and sensor infrastructure on the grid. This new equipment will allow residential customers to receive more granular (hourly) data about their energy usage. It will also provide more detailed outage information to RMP, allowing the utility to identify and resolve power outages more quickly. The new equipment will be deployed on portions of the grid that serve “critical customers,” including hospitals, trauma centers, and police and fire dispatchers in order to improve system reliability.
|Utah Clean Energy's Policy Team (from left):
Sarah Wright, Kevin Emerson, Kate Bowman & Josh Craft
The marathon of meetings, negotiations, and action alerts that we call the 2017 Utah Legislative Session came to a close last week! During the 45-day whirlwind Session, Utah Clean Energy’s policy team tracked and worked on over a dozen bills impacting energy efficiency, clean energy, and air quality. We have come away with some important wins for clean energy and air quality. We were also dealt a few hard losses. Read on for a roundup of the good, the bad and everything in between from the 2017 Utah Legislative Session.You can also see Utah Clean Energy’s Legislative Tracker for all bills we followed.
Last-minute Save for Clean Energy Financing: Energy Development Amendments (SB 273)
Senator Stuart Adams of Layton introduced SB 273 in the last weeks of the Session. The bill proposed a number of positive changes to Utah’s Commercial Property Assessed Clean Energy (C-PACE) financing law that allows commercial and industrial property owners to finance energy upgrades, including energy efficiency, renewable energy systems, and electric vehicle infrastructure through voluntary property assessments. Utah Clean Energy took the lead on advocating for the original C-PACE law back in 2013, and supported Sen. Adams’ bill.
However, last-minute changes made to the bill in the Senate added language that would have unfairly discriminated against large renewable energy projects over two megawatts in size, and require renewable energy project owners to pay Rocky Mountain Power for “stranded assets” without oversight of the Public Service Commission. Thankfully, we learned about the problematic language and quickly went into action to help broker a compromise with legislators the day before the end of the session. While it’s not perfect, the compromise language addressed our major concern. After the amendments were made, SB 273 moved forward quickly passing both houses. Learn more about C-PACE financing here.
Status: The House and Senate passed an amended version of SB 273 and the bill has moved for final consideration by the Governor.
Good News for HOAs and Solar: Solar Access Amendments (SB 154)
Senator Lincoln Fillmore of South Jordan sponsored SB 154, which proposed to limit the degree to which homeowners associations (HOA) can restrict the installation of rooftop solar by home owners that are part of an HOA. HOAs frequently prohibit residents from installing solar systems on their property, so this bill provided a very modest solution to help Utahns who live in HOAs go solar. The final bill included a minor amendment to clarify that the changes do not apply to HOAs where homeowners do not own their own roofs. All in all, this is a fairly narrow bill that does not solve all the HOA solar restrictions, but it is certainly a step in the right direction.
Status: SB 154 was approved by the House on a 53-15 vote on the final day of the session. The Senate concurred with the changes and now it moves to the Governor’s desk.
More Access to Clean Energy is Always a Good Thing: Renewable Energy Amendments (HB 297)
Representative Stephen Handy of Layton sponsored HB 297, which amends the Utah law regarding “Schedule 32” electric rates. Schedule 32 is the law that allows businesses to contract with renewable energy developers for energy from off-site renewable energy projects. Just think about how much pollution we could prevent if massive energy users were powered by clean 100% renewable energy! HB 297 changes Schedule 32 to allow large energy users to purchase energy from out-of-state renewable energy projects with the caveat that the project provides baseload electricity supply (i.e., if it is not an intermittent resource like solar and wind).
Status: The Senate voted in favor of HB 297 and now the bill is enrolled and awaiting action by Governor Herbert.
Compromise Found on Residential Solar Tax Credit: Renewable Energy Tax Credit Amendments (HB23)
Utah Clean Energy has been working with many community and solar industry partners to help deter 2017 legislation aimed at eliminating Utah’s state income tax credit for residential solar energy systems. Once a bill saw the light of day, we began negotiations with the House Sponsor of HB 23, Representative Jeremy Peterson, resulting in a compromise that includes: removing an annual cap on the tax credit that was proposed in the original the bill, retaining Utah's existing residential income tax credit for solar energy systems through 2017, and then gradually phasing out the tax credit, with a 20 percent reduction each year starting in 2018 through 2021. The phase-out applies only to residential solar PV systems, not solar thermal or passive solar systems.
More than ten years ago, Utah Clean Energy helped create this tax incentive, which was implemented to help Utah’s then-immature solar industry become established in Utah. While we would have liked to see the solar PV tax incentive continue indefinitely, the compromise bill and its more gradual approach is a vast improvement over the bill as it was originally proposed.
Status: The Senate approved HB 23 and the bill is enrolled and awaiting final action by Governor Herbert. See Utah Clean Energy’s Renewable Energy Tax Credit page for more information on the tax credit.
A Hard Loss: Energy Efficient Vehicle Tax Credit Amendments Fails to Pass the House (HB 29)
Close, but not close enough! Representative Stephen Handy of Layton also sponsored HB 29, which proposed to renew and modify Utah’s successful tax credit for electric vehicles. The tax credit, which is a critical tool to improve long-term air quality along the Wasatch Front, expired on December 31, 2016.
Utah Clean Energy worked throughout the Session with Representative Handy and House Revenue and Taxation Committee members to address concerns with the potential cost of the tax credit. We worked with parties to negotiate amendments to HB 29, including a five-year phase-out and an annual review of the tax credit (a measure not required for other tax credits, which are reviewed every three years).
Despite being passed unanimously out of the House Committee and a significant effort by Utah Clean Energy staff to garner strong legislative support, HB 29 failed to pass the House – falling short by just one vote near the end of the Session. Utah is not alone in this development. Across the country incentives for electric vehicles are being repealed or allowed to expire as reported in a recent New York Times article. But rest assured: we’re not giving up on efforts to grow Utah’s nascent electric vehicle market!
Status: The full House voted against HB 29 by a narrow margin of 37-38. See Utah Clean Energy’s fact sheet on HB 29 for more information about the bill.
We Would Have Liked to See This One Pass: Environmental and Economic Stewardship (HJR 18)
House Joint Resolution 18, sponsored by Representative Rebecca Edwards, calls on the State of Utah and its Congressional delegation to recognize the risks to the state posed by climate change and plan for appropriate public and private actions to adapt to and mitigate those risks, including promoting the use of energy efficiency. Unfortunately, the bill didn’t make it out of Committee.
Status: HJR 18 failed to advance in the House Economic Development & Resource Stewardship Committee on a committee vote of 5-5.
Political Balance Not Preserved in State Boards: State Boards and Commissions Amendments (HB 11)
House Bill 11, sponsored by Representative Norman Thurston of Provo and Senator Margaret Dayton of Orem, proved to be one of the most challenging bills of the 2017 session. HB 11 removes the requirement that members of a certain state boards and commissions are not solely filled by members of one political party, known as the political balance requirement. Utah Clean Energy worked in favor of a compromise version of the bill, passed by the House that would have maintained the political balance requirement for important energy and environmental agencies including the Public Service Commission, the Air Quality Board, and the Water Quality Board, among others. Remember, the Public Service Commission is the entity that rules on utility issues, such as net metering. Despite this positive compromise made in the House, the Senate chose to overturn this compromise, moving forward a bill that removed the political balance requirement for all state boards. Ultimately, the House voted narrowly to approve the Senate-backed version of HB 11, despite our efforts to restore the compromise.
Status: The House concurred with the Senate version of HB 11 and the bill now awaits a final decision by Governor Herbert.
Well there you have it! 45 days, over a dozen bills and some good forward progress. From all of us at Utah Clean Energy, a big THANK YOU to everyone who responded to our take action alerts and got involved during the 2017 Legislative Session.
Utah Clean Energy
At the eleventh hour of the 2019 Utah Legislative Session, House Bill 411 (HB 411) – Community Renewable Energy Act passed 48-24 in the House and 23-6 in the Senate. As a result, Utah communities served by Rocky Mountain Power can now develop a Community Renewable Energy Program seeking to achieve a net-100% renewable energy portfolio by 2030.
Communities interested in participating are required to adopt a resolution committing to a net-100% renewable energy goal by 2030 no later than December 31st, 2019.
Frequently Asked Questions for the Community Renewable Energy Act can be found here.
Electric vehicles, or EVs, which can run fully or partially on electricity, present a critical opportunity to improve air quality along the Wasatch Front. Unfortunately, a tax credit that helped Utahns make the switch to cleaner electric vehicles expired on December 31st, 2016. With your help, we may be able to bring it back!
Representative Stephen Handy of Layton is sponsoring a bill (House Bill 29) that would renew and improve the tax credit for electric vehicles. If passed, the bill would allow a tax credit of $1,500 for the purchase of a qualifying "long-range" electric vehicle (EVs with batter capacity of 10 kwh or more) and $1,000 for qualifying "short-range" electric vehicles (EVs with battery capacity of less than 10 kwh). Additionally, Representative Handy's bill would extend the tax credit through 2021 and also create an option for the tax credit to function as an up-front rebate (by allowing the vehicle buyer to assign the tax credit to the dealer/dealer's financing entity).
UPDATE Feb. 21, 2017: Based on feedback from the House Revenue and Taxation Committee, HB 29 was amended to include a requirement for an annual review, a phase-down of the tax credit between 2019 and 2021, and language that limits the eligibility of the tax credit to those who operate electric vehicles within counties that are designated as “nonattainment” for air quality. With many thanks to Representative Handy for his persistence, on February 14th the House Revenue and Taxation Committee voted unanimously to pass HB 29 out of Committee and onto a vote by the full House of Representatives.
Download Utah Clean Energy’s fact sheet on HB 29.
Read about the bills we’re following on our 2017 Legislative Session Policy Tracker
Over the last ten years, rooftop solar in Utah has grown rapidly. In fact, Utah's installed solar has doubled every year since 2011, and Utah Clean Energy is determinted to keep this trend moving. Our challenge for the future is to ensure all Utah families and businesses continue to have fair and affordable access to solar, and provide market certainty for the solar industry. To that end, Utah Clean Energy and Salt Lake City developed "A Bright Future: A 10 Year Solar Deployment Plan for Utah," to provide a clear path to guide the development of a sustainable and robust solar market across Utah.
According to the ENERGY STAR program, the average commercial building wastes 30% of the energy it consumes through inefficient operations and technologies, which is a drain on our economy and creates needless pollution. Building energy benchmarking is a critical step in saving energy by empowering building and facility managers with information about their building’s energy performance, and helps target which buildings are ready to save energy, money, and reduce pollution. In Utah, the once arduous process of benchmarking is now streamlined and automated thanks to Salt Lake City, Rocky Mountain Power, and Questar Gas through their participation in the U.S. Department of Energy’s Energy Data Accelerator initiative.
The goal of the Energy Data Accelerator is to connect businesses’ utility accounts with energy benchmarking programs such as ENERGY STAR Portfolio Manager®. To achieve this goal, Salt Lake City, Rocky Mountain Power, and Questar Gas teamed up to develop an automated benchmarking tool that allows a building representative to connect their energy meters to the ENERGY STAR Portfolio Manager® through an automatic, monthly upload of utility data. Utah Clean Energy was involved in the initiative as well, and we are pleased to report that Rocky Mountain Power’s automated benchmarking tool has already enrolled 85 Utah buildings! What’s more, Questar Gas’ automated benchmarking program is slated for implementation beginning in late 2016.
Energy waste in buildings is a substantial contributor to local air pollution, posing a challenge to economic development and the quality of life in Salt Lake City and along the Wasatch Front. Building energy benchmarking is the first step in effectively managing energy consumption in commercial buildings. Benchmarking using ENERGY STAR Portfolio Manager® gives building and facility managers an easy to understand ENERGY STAR Score, allowing simple comparison to their baseline energy consumption and other similar buildings. Before the automated benchmarking tool, a significant amount of time and effort was required to manually track down and enter utility data into the Portfolio Manager software. Automated energy benchmarking allows building owners in Utah to benchmark their buildings with significantly less staff time and effort, thus driving greater awareness of energy efficiency opportunities and encouraging the implementation of energy efficiency improvements in commercial buildings.
Rocky Mountain Power’s automated energy benchmarking tool has already earned significant distinction, including recognition by the White House and the U.S. Department of Energy. On the local front, Governor Herbert recently honored Salt Lake City and Rocky Mountain Power as a Finalist for the Governor’s Excellence in Energy Award.
Just before Thanksgiving, the Utah Legislature held its final interim session hearings before the 2019 Legislative Session opens at the end of January. Utah Clean Energy has been actively monitoring developments before the Public Utilities, Energy, and Technology Interim Committee and the powerful Business and Labor Interim Committee. However, the November meetings ended with significant unknowns for two key pieces of energy legislation that will be debated next year. A few details below:
We will be sharing a more comprehensive list of Utah Clean Energy’s legislative priorities for the 2019 in the next month.
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. You can visit the Public Service Commission Page for Docket No. 14-035-114. See below for quick links to specific issues within the case.
As mentioned, the Public Service Commission is considering the proposed changes below. As a formal intervener in the rooftop solar net metering case, Utah Clean Energy’s experts have been 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:
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.
As a formal intervener in the rooftop solar net metering case before the Public Service Commission, Utah Clean Energy’s experts have been 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.
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:
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.