If you know Utah Clean Energy, you know we’ve been working for years to ensure that rooftop solar customers are compensated fairly for the energy they export to the grid. In late 2017, we reached an agreement that protected net metering for existing rooftop solar customers (who have been grandfathered), created interim compensation rules for people who install solar from 2018 until about 2020, 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 conclude in late 2020.
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.
Our experts testified before the Commission reiterating our suggested changes to the Load Research Study proposal.
The Commission issued an order 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. The Load Research Study began on January 1, 2019, and will run through the 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.
Since this decision, Utah Clean Energy, in conjunction with some of our partners, submitted a request that the Commission bring in technical experts from the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory (LBNL) to help all Utah parties better understand the potential benefits of rooftop solar. Solar technology is rapidly evolving and it is vital that we understand its technical capabilities to ensure that our new export credit rate captures all possible benefits from rooftop solar. The Commission granted our request and will request technical assistance from LBNL likely sometime in early 2019.
The combination of the load research study and the technical expertise from LBNL will help Utah Clean Energy advocate for a fair and accurate export credit for Utah solar customers.