Rocky Mountain Power, solar advocates are negotiating net metering rate compromise
- The parties are still bound by confidentiality agreements, but The Salt Lake Tribune said solar advocates in Utah and Rocky Mountain Power are closing in on a deal that would develop a new way of paying rooftop solar customers. RMP spokesperson Jon Cox confirmed to Utility Dive that both parties were in the middle of discussions, but no settlement has been decided yet.
- According to the Tribune, under a framework being considered, Rocky Mountain Power would eliminate its net metering program entirely and pay solar customers directly for exported energy. However, the RMP spokesman cautioned Utility Dive that that's only one of the alternative settlements under consideration.
- Last year, the utility proposed new fixed fees, a residential demand charge and lower remuneration rates for rooftop solar customers. The new rates could raise monthly bills for the average solar customer from $55 to $74, by some estimates.
There are few specifics and the details still need to be hashed out, but Rocky Mountain Power officials say they would be amenable to a new framework being considered that was developed and filed by the Utah Office of Consumer Services and the Division of Public Utilities earlier in the summer. But the utility is also slated to defend its three-part proposal next week in a series of proceedings.
Among the questions the compromise must answer: how long would net metering customers be grandfathered in, and what rate would the utility pay for exported energy. Under the possible framework, any energy generated by a customer's solar panels and used at the home would be considered akin to energy efficiency. So far, those details are still being negotiated, but RMP could be amendable to that type of solution, the spokesman told Utility Dive.
The utility, owned by Berkshire Hathaway Energy, last year said it wanted solar customers to pay a $15 fixed customer charge, $9.02/kW for peak period demand and $0.0381/kWh for the amount of energy used. Existing customers would be grandfathered in, however, keeping their existing rates.
RMP's current proposal takes its cue from several utilities proposing a demand charge on solar customers. However, those have yet to prove successful, as most have met significant backlash from solar advocates. Still, that hasn't prevented utilities from trying to levy this particular rate design on consumers. Nevada's NV Energy is latest proposing the state examine the impacts of a "maximum demand charge" on all residential consumers.
RMP conducted a study last year under the direction of utility regulators, which said a typical rooftop solar customer underpays their actual cost of service by about $400 per year, amounting to $6.5 million each year that is shifted to other residential customers. And that amount could grow to as much as $78 million annually if the issue is not addressed, the utility said.
"Over the next 20 years the cost shift to other customers is estimated to be about $667 million," the utility said in a statement last year. Residential net metering customers now receive bill savings worth about $0.105/kWh they produce, according to the utility, while RMP can purchase from large-scale renewable projects at about a third of the cost. The utility is also proposed a new $60 application fee for most net metering customers to "cover the actual costs of processing the applications."
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