Rocky Mountain Power suspends temporary net-metering request
Company still considering new permanent fees for solar users
New rooftop solar customers were granted a temporary reprieve last week from a set of proposed rates for net-metering bills.
Rocky Mountain Power has asked the Utah Public Service Commission to suspend its request to implement a temporary rate structure for net-metering customers while it continues negotiating with energy providers.
On Nov. 9, Rocky Mountain Power, a division of PacifiCorp, filed a request with the Public Service Commission to update the current rate structure for net-metering customers by implementing a transitional tariff before determining new permanent rates. The temporary rates would have gone into effect on Friday, Dec. 9, and applied to customers who submitted net-metering applications after that date.
In the Dec. 9 filing, Rocky Mountain Power recommended the commission “exercise its statutory prerogative to suspend the tariff changes while interested stakeholders continue to seek mutually acceptable resolutions,” according to court documents. The commission accepted the recommendation and suspended the changes.
“We thought that the temporary tariff would give people a notice that things could change,” said Paul Murphy, a spokesperson for Rocky Mountain Power. “But, we have had some recent conversations with those in the solar industry and other environmental groups and we are going to see if we can have some fruitful discussions.”
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 and put back into the power grid, results in additional costs to other customers.
“Rocky Mountain Power is hoping for some certainty to provide a fair price for rooftop solar customers that doesn’t penalize those who don’t have solar panels,” Murphy said. “As our studies have shown, it is penalizing those who don’t have panels to the tune of $6.5 million.
“People who don’t buy the product are paying extra for people who do buy solar panels,” he said.
As previously reported in The Park Record, 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
The current average bill under net-metering would increase from about $55 a month to $74, according to Rocky Mountain Power.
“Any changes in rates does not affect the profit of Rocky Mountain Power,” Murphy said. “You are still going to save about 35 percent per month if you install solar, but you won’t save as much as you were before.”
Rocky Mountain Power will reportedly notify the commission “if a stipulation is reached or if the attempt to resolve this matter becomes unfruitful,” according to court documents.
“Our customers who don’t have solar panels don’t have a choice to pay that money for those who do have panels,” Murphy said. “Our mandate is to provide electricity at the lowest price possible. We can get wind and solar much cheaper from large-scale farms than we can from rooftop solar, but if people want to make that decision to install it themselves, that is their choice.”
The suspended request will not affect an August hearing before the Public Service Commission to determine a permanent structure. Summit County and Park City Municipal Corp. filed petitions to intervene and respond to the increase rates during the hearing
County Council Chair Roger Armstrong said while he is encouraged, he is still “deeply concerned” about the proposed rate structure that is still pending.
“I would hope that there are some discussion going on between the entities that have intervened with Rocky Mountain Power,” Armstrong said. “While the withdrawal and suspension of the request concerning the transitional tariff is nice, it is not the core of the problem.”
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