Summit County files petition over Rocky Mountain Power proposed rate structure for solar customers | ParkRecord.com

Summit County files petition over Rocky Mountain Power proposed rate structure for solar customers

Council criticizes increase, says it will have a “substantial impact on sustainability”

Solar panels are shown lining the roof of the Summit County Health Department. Summit County filed a petition last week seeking an opportunity to respond to Rocky Mountain Powers request to increase rates for new rooftop solar customers. County Council members say the proposed rates are counter to their sustainability goals.

Summit County filed a petition last week with the Utah Public Service Commission seeking an opportunity to respond to Rocky Mountain Power's request to increase rates for new rooftop solar customers.

Council members agreed to file a petition to intervene during the Nov. 16 County Council meeting, fearing the utility company's proposal could have substantial impacts on solar initiatives across the state.

"We have to participate in this political process because what they are proposing could have an impact on us when we want to install solar on our county buildings, as well as our residents," said Council Chair Roger Armstrong. "It goes completely counter to our vision, in terms of our sustainability goals."

Rocky Mountain Power filed a request on Nov. 9 asking that the Public Service Commission determine the "current rate structure for net-metering customers is unjust and unreasonable" based on their cost analysis. It requested the commission approve a new three-part tariff structure, according to court documents.

Rocky Mountain Power claims the costs of the net-metering program, which is the billing method the utility company uses to give credit to renewable energy system owners for the electricity they produce, exceeds its benefits. The company claims the surge in popularity of solar installation results in additional costs to other customers.

"This dramatic growth forms the basis for the company’s recommendation to replace the current rate structure for residential net-metering customers with its proposed three-part rate structure, which includes a fixed monthly charge, an on-peak demand and an energy charge," Gary Hoogeveen, senior vice president and chief commercial officer of Rocky Mountain Power, said in the court filing. "The Company supports renewable resources and customer choice for additional renewable products as long as an appropriate rate structure is in place that allows customers to use private generation without adversely affecting other residential customers or the Company."

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Rocky Mountain Power claims net-metering customers are underpaying their costs to maintain the energy grid by about $400 each per year and are burdening other customers with about $6.5 million in additional costs.

To reduce the impact on other customers and the company, Rocky Mountain Power is proposing the following three-part rate structure:

  • $15 fixed charge
  • $9.02 peak demand charge
  • 3.81 cents per kilowatt-hour use rate

A new $60 one-time application fee would be required for systems smaller than 25 kilowatts, according to Rocky Mountain Power's website. The application fee for a system above 25 kilowatts would increase from $50 to $75, with the per-kilowatt charge going up from $1 to $1.50. The application fees would also be raised on systems above 25 kilowatts from $100 to $150, with the per-kilowatt charge going up from $2 to $3. Current net-metering customers would continue to pay a monthly charge of $6.

The current average bill under net-metering would increase from about $55 a month to $74, according to Rocky Mountain Power. The new rates would only apply to customers who submit net-metering applications after Dec. 9.

"This is an unprecedented fast tracking of a rate filing that would adversely affect net-meter customers," said Lisa Yoder, Summit County sustainability coordinator. "Their increase is significant for future households and would discourage people from putting solar on their roof. The cost is significantly higher than if they were to put it on today.

"My concern is Rocky Mountain Power is creating the notion that net-metered customers are costing the non-net metered customers money, creating an us-versus-them scenario that's all too prevalent in the country today and we don't need that," Yoder said. "Most people view the large investment that homeowners incur to put solar on their homes as a benefit to all of us."

The Park City Council is scheduled to meet during a special meeting on Tuesday, Nov. 21, to also consider a similar petition.

City staffers stated in a report "those changes may adversely affect the future of solar installations through Park City and Utah, and create a barrier to Park City achieving its stated environmental goals to implement renewable electricity for all city operations by 2022."

The letter went on to request that City Council submit a letter asking the Public Service Commission to deny Rocky Mountain Power's proposed rates because it is a "rushed approach that will lead to drastic and negative impacts on our community and the state of Utah overall."

For more information about net-metering and Rocky Mountain Power's proposed rates, go to http://utahsolarworks.com/net-metering/.

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