As the owner of a Solar Powered Residence, I am responding to the Associated Press article that appeared in the Park Record of 7-30 to 8-1 titled: "Activists, others protest proposed solar fees."
Effective May 2013, our home in Park City has been 100 percent Solar Powered with a return on our investment of approximately 11 years. The article quoted Mike Walton of Creative Energies as stating that "Homeowners with solar systems typically see a return on investment of their total cost in less than seven years." Solar is cost effective, however as a solar homeowner I believe his statement is overly optimistic. Although every residential installation is unique, I believe a time for return on investment could more accurately be stated as closer to 10 years.
Our current electric bill is $8.07 per month. Of that amount, $7.00 includes a minimum charge of $2.00 and basic charge of $5.00. The balance is for home electric lifeline program and local, municipal and state taxes. This basic charge and minimum charge per month is paid by us and all Rocky Mountain Power residential users to pay for grid maintenance. To charge solar powered residences the proposed monthly fee in addition, is in effect making us pay more for grid maintenance than non solar powered residences. Should this fee be approved, it sets a precedence whereby more "solar producer fees" will follow and will certainly be a disincentive for future growth of wind and solar powered homes.
RMP spokesman Paul Murphy's quotes to justify the solar fee are grossly misleading. Remember, he is representing a company whose power is generated in large part by coal. Make no mistake, this is not about "bargains for solar customers to access the grid". It is not about a "hike (that) is needed to help cover costs for those customers on days when the sun isn't out and the wind isn't blowing". It is about narrow financial interest.
Using our home as an example, since March 2014 our solar system has produced 1796 KWH in excess of what we have used. This excess power goes directly back into the grid for use in our neighborhood. That fact is important because this power is generated and used here and does not need to be generated and transported long distances. The physics of electrical generation and transportation prove that most electrical waste is the result of transporting that power long distances to the consumer. Electrical production with solar, using that electricity on site and in the neighborhood where it is produced is far more efficient. Also, growth of residential solar and wind allows Rocky Mountain Power to spend less on infrastructure growth than would be needed if solar and wind were not used.
Murphy stated "....we think $4.65 is a bargain for them to still have access to the grid for when the sun doesn't shine or when the wind doesn't blow."
What Murphy did not say is: When the sun does not shine, we are getting energy from the grid that we have already given to it by generating excess energy we have not used. Remember the 1796 KWH quoted above that we have already given to the grid since March at our expense. Also, what Murphy did not say is that in Utah, unlike many other states, if a residential solar producer has an excess of energy at the end of the company's fiscal year (March), that energy goes to Rocky Mountain Power free and will not be carried over to the next fiscal year or purchased by the company.
I am not surprised that Rocky Mountain Power is proposing a surcharge for Utah residences producing their own power. However, the Utah Public Service Commission should decline to approve the surcharge because it cannot be justified with the facts and as the Commission's name implies it is a public service. Residential consumers generating electricity using current solar technology are being economical, efficient and exceedingly earth friendly. Persons or entities that promote or allow disincentives are shortsighted, primarily interested in the status-quo protecting their own narrow interests and are a disservice to the public.