A pivotal hearing is scheduled to begin at the end of September that will decide the future of rooftop solar in Utah. Utah Clean Energy’s solar team is busy preparing for the final phase of the Solar Export Credit Proceeding, making the case that homes and businesses with rooftop solar should be fairly compensated for the clean energy they send to the grid.
Make Your Voice Heard During the Virtual Public Hearing
Community members will have an opportunity to weigh-in during a public hearing scheduled for October 5, 2020. However, a new change has been made requiring anyone who wants to provide public comment to submit a formal meeting request by emailing the PSC at . Requests for an appointment must be emailed no later than Wednesday, September 30, 2020. Requests should have “Request to provide public comment in Docket No. 17-035-61” in the subject line and the full name of the requester in the email to help ensure the requests are processed correctly.
Get Ready for the Public Hearing: Background and Details
Rooftop solar customers receive a credit from the utility for every kilowatt-hour of energy exported to the grid. In early 2020, Rocky Mountain Power proposed new export credit rates for future rooftop solar customers. The proposal, under review by the Utah Public Service Commission, is to reduce the compensation that new solar customers receive for the clean energy they export to the grid to 1.56 cents per kilowatt-hour (kWh). The proposal is an 84% reduction compared to the current solar credit of 9.2 cents per kWh. If approved, this rate would apply to all new solar customers who apply for an interconnection agreement.
This would be applied differentially, based on the time of day and season
- Summer on peak (June – September, 4PM – 8PM) = 2.6293 cents per kWh
- Summer off peak (June – September, all other hours) = 1.7080 cents per kWh
- Winter on peak: (October – May, 4PM – 8PM) = 2.2409 cents per kWh
- Winter off peak: (October – May, all other hours) = 1.3247 cents per kWh
- Prices would be updated annually, so customer rates will change annually.
New/Changed Fees Also Included in Rocky Mountain's Proposal
- a one-time, non-refundable application fee of $150
- a one-time customer generation meter fee of $160
- real-time or instantaneous netting of exported energy (instead of 15 min, hourly, monthly, etc).
What Factors Are Included in Rocky Mountain Power's Proposal
Determining the value of rooftop solar is complex: it requires assigning a dollar amount to the benefits that result from rooftop solar. These benefits range from reduced power plant emissions to the avoided costs of purchasing fuel to run those power plants. The value ultimately depends on which costs and benefits are considered.
Rocky Mountain Power's 1.56 cent per kilowatt-hour value is based on a solar study that includes generation data from 70 homes and businesses. As shown in the chart below, Rocky Mountain Power only considers a few of the benefits of solar energy. In contrast, Vote Solar conducted a separate study, looking at a broader set of costs and benefits based on data from 1,214 solar customers. Vote Solar calculated the value of solar to be 22 cents per kilowatt-hour – more than double the current rate of 9.2 cents.
Both studies include a value for avoided fuel purchases due to rooftop solar and for the line losses that are avoided when rooftop solar energy is produced close to where it is used (rather than transferred long distances across the grid). But that’s where the similarities end. All of the health and climate benefits are notably absent from Rocky Mountain Power’s study.
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. The Public Hearing is scheduled for October 5, where members of the public can weigh in with your comments to the Commission - REMEMBER TO SCHEDULE WITH THE PSC!
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. 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.