Rocky Mountain Power was wise to back down on net metering |

Rocky Mountain Power was wise to back down on net metering

The Park Record editorial, Dec. 14-16, 2016


Late last week, in the face of substantial public criticism, Rocky Mountain Power agreed to withdraw its request to raise metering rates for new rooftop solar users. At least temporarily.

The power company justified the rate hike proposal with claims that solar users don’t pay their fair share for upkeep of the region’s grid network, even though they rely on it when the sun doesn’t shine. According to Rocky Mountain Power, regular power users were basically subsidizing those costs for solar customers.

But that misses the larger point: solar users are helping to improve air quality for everyone, even those who rely on coal-fueled electricity.

Investing in solar panels — along with installation — is not cheap. Even with Utah’s sunny climate, most homeowners won’t recoup those costs for a decade or more. Increasing their monthly power bills to offset maintenance of the grid would add years to that balance sheet.

More importantly, the higher rate could discourage new homeowners from trying solar power.

In Summit County, where protecting the natural environment is held sacred, the outcry against Rocky Mountain Power’s fossilized agenda was particularly loud. And rightfully so. Residents denounced the proposed rate hikes while elected officials took a more diplomatic approach. But the message was clear — any attempt to block or slow the community’s efforts to reduce its carbon footprint would be met with staunch opposition.

Both sides took their arguments to the Utah Public Service Commission, which has the final say in the matter. The commission’s job is to ensure public utilities are affordable and also financially sound and initially supported the power company’s proposal, but as the solar lobby gained intensity, Rocky Mountain must have sensed its prospects dimming. On Friday it decided to withdraw and review the proposed rate schedule.

In the meantime, sales of solar panels have picked up and, for now, the future of Utah’s nascent solar industry looks bright. That’s especially good news for Park City, which is trying to reach a net-zero carbon emission goal by 2022.

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