In late 2017, we reached an agreement that protected net metering for existing rooftop solar customers (who have been grandfathered) and lays out a transition pathway for compensating future solar customers for the solar energy they export to the grid. Part of that agreement was to launch a new proceeding before the Utah Public Service Commission to dig into long-term rates and the value of rooftop solar. The proceeding is underway, but is expected to take 2-3 years.
Here’s the latest on this behemoth utility docket.
The Load Research Study
The first step is a “Load Research Study” to collect data about solar customers. The goal here is to improve our understanding of the costs and benefits that rooftop solar brings to the grid, and fellow ratepayers. That may seem mundane, but this study is our best chance to correctly quantify the value of solar. We need to get it right!
The Utah Public Service Commission has been considering what types of information can and should be considered in the study. The data collected through this study will primarily fuel the analysis used to determine rates for solar customers, which is phase two of the docket.
Rocky Mountain Power presented a draft proposal for the "Load Research Study" that proposed to collect a limited amount of information from a small pool of about 70 customers. Utah Clean Energy argued that it was inadequate and submitted testimony to the Utah Public Service Commission proposing improvements to Rocky Mountain Power's proposal. We are adamant that the "Load Research Study" must gather detailed and comprehensive data about when, where, and how solar customers are producing energy and exporting energy into the grid, and information about how solar customers interact with the utility grid.
The latest hearing in this proceeding was on April 17. Our experts testified before the Commission reiterating our suggested changes to the Load Research Study proposal.
Utah Public Service Commission Ruling
The Commission issued an order on May 21 granting some of Utah Clean Energy’s requested modifications to the Load Research Study. Specifically, the Commission ordered Rocky Mountain Power to increase the sample size, study residential and commercial customers separately, and collect additional export and import data from a larger subset of the sample. However, the Commission denied our request to include additional data about solar customers that we feel is important to accurately value rooftop solar. We plan to file a joint petition with Vote Solar and Vivint Solar by June 20 requesting that the Commission reconsider these exclusions and amend its order requiring Rocky Mountain Power to include this additional data.
The Load Research Study will begin on January 1, 2019, and will run for the following year. After the study concludes, Utah Clean Energy will use the study’s conclusions and additional relevant information to advocate for a fair and accurate export credit rate for Utah solar customers.