Following two years of deliberation, the Supreme Court of the State of Utah finally filed its opinion on Vote Solar v. Public Service Commission of Utah. In the case, Vote Solar, with support from Utah Clean Energy, argued that Utah law clearly vests the Utah Public Service Commission (PSC) with the authority to consider climate costs and the benefits of solar energy when setting energy rates, especially rooftop solar rates. We argued that ignoring climate and health costs is an abdication of the PSC’s duty to equally protect electricity customers and the financial interests of the utilities that serve them.
It was a tough blow when the Court largely declined to address any of these arguments in their final ruling. Of the five issues Vote Solar raised, the Court dismissed three for lack of jurisdiction and thus did not touch upon the substance of several crucial issues raised by Vote Solar and affirmed by Utah Clean Energy in its amicus curiae brief.
In summary, the Export Credit Rate for excess solar produced by rooftop arrays will remain at about 5 cents per kilowatt-hour (c/kwh). That is less than half the going retail rate in UT, despite the undeniable value that electricity produced by rooftop solar brings to Utah’s grid, and the larger health and climate benefits it brings to our community.
Further, the Court affirmed the PSC’s decisions to both allow credits to expire at the end of each year and update the export credit rate annually. Vote Solar argued against each of these decisions as they disincentivize solar adoption, and unfairly subject solar customers to unpredictable price fluctuations and uncertain energy costs.
Planning for the Future
The heart of this issue goes beyond solar rates. Extreme weather events like wildfires, floods and droughts all exacerbated by climate change cost the U.S. $165 billion in 2022, according to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA).
In the face of worsening climate impacts, there has never been a more crucial time to empower Utahns with emission-reducing tools like rooftop solar. Rooftop solar, especially when coupled with battery storage, will help improve grid reliability while helping customers reduce their energy usage; avoid peak pricing premiums; and generate their own electricity or export to the grid for the benefit of our larger community. While Utah Clean Energy is discouraged by the Supreme Court’s ruling in Vote Solar v. Public Service Commission of Utah, we remain hopeful and determined to support the continued growth of new distributed energy technologies like rooftop solar that enable utility customers to become active participants in the generation, delivery, and conservation of energy.