There are currently around 30,000 Rocky Mountain Power customers with rooftop solar that participate in the net metering program. If you are one of those customers, you know that the excess solar you generate and send to the grid is credited back to your monthly bill. That is until March, when unused net metering credits expire, and their value rolled over to Rocky Mountain Power.
Having your net metering credits expire every year has never been very popular with many rooftop solar customers, but the saving grace came in 2015 when the Utah State Legislature specified that the value of excess credits would be earmarked to fund low-income energy assistance programs. Utah Clean Energy’s interpretation of that stipulation was that low-income energy programs would receive a financial boost from the value of expired net metering credits. It certainly softens the blow of losing your net metering credits when you know that they’ll help more Utahns in need with their energy bills. Unfortunately, that isn’t exactly the case.
Where Does the Money From Expired Net Metering Credits Go?
Since 2015, Rocky Mountain Power has applied money from expired net metering credits to their “Home Electric Lifeline Program” (HELP). Don’t get us wrong; it’s a great program that helps qualified low-income customers with a credit of up to $12.60 per month off their energy bill. Unfortunately, when Utah Clean Energy took a closer look, we found that money from expired credits isn’t actually adding resources to the HELP program. Instead, Rocky Mountain Power is using this money to offset funding for the HELP program. In short, the funds from expired net metering credits are not providing additional services to low-income residents. What a missed opportunity!
We recently learned that the value of expired net metering credits from 2017 came to about $159,839. Utah Clean Energy wants to see that money used more effectively. First and foremost, that money should increase funding for low-income programs, not just offset the cost. Also, this money should be leveraged to empower more Utahns with clean, energy efficient homes. As we detail in these comments recently submitted to the Utah Public Service Commission, Utah Clean Energy wants to redirect this funding to the Weatherization Assistance Program.
Band-Aid Solution VS Long-Term Fixes
The monthly bill credit from HELP is a valuable tool that we support, but it doesn’t solve the underlying problem: many Utah families live in leaky, inefficient homes and cannot afford the weatherization services to fix these energy-wasting problems. Why not use this $159,839 to help more low-income homes become energy efficient, which will reduce energy costs not just for one month, but for years to come? Another consideration is a solar pilot program for low-income homes. The Weatherization Assistance Project could partner with affiliates to help families that have already participated in the weatherization program to take the next step to access the benefits of clean solar power!
In spite of the fact that Utah Clean Energy, the Office of Consumer Services, the Division of Public Utilities, and Utah Solar Association all recommended that the expired NEM credit be reallocated to the Weatherization Assistance Program, the Utah Public Service Commission issued a decision to leave the Expired NEM credits with the HELP program. In response to this decision, Utah Clean Energy and the Office of Consumer Services each submitted an appeal to the PSC asking it to reconsider this decision and assign the credits to the Weatherization Assistance Program.
On October 10, announced that it would create a new docket specifically for the purpose of considering alternative uses of the expiring NEM credits. This new docket will allow parties, including UCE, to submit comments recommending a new home for the credits where they will actually satisfy their purpose of providing additional assistance to Utahns, instead of offsetting existing funding. The first round of comments are due on November 8, and reply comments will be due on November 27.