Utah regulators turn down Rocky Mountain Power's bid for solar bill charge

Dive Brief:

  • The Utah Public Service Commission voted down a Rocky Mountain Power-proposed $4.65 monthly bill charge for solar owners, which the utility argued was to fairly allocate grid infrastructure costs eluded by owners of rooftop systems and which solar advocates argued was an unjustified penalty to solar owners.
  • The commission ruled stakeholders should “gather and analyze the necessary data, including the load profile data that is foundational to this analysis [of the impacts of Net Energy Metering (NEM)], and present to us their results and recommendations in a future proceeding."
  • Solar advocates hailed the decision as a victory in the fight for solar owners’ rights to use Utah’s NEM policy to reduce their electricity bills by reducing the amount of power they import from the grid, and being paid the retail electricity rate for power they send to the grid. Rocky Mountain Power’s concern is the pro-rated reduction in those customers’ grid maintenance bill charge, which shifts the cost burden for maintaining the grid to non-solar-owning customers.

Dive Insight:

Utah is among 42 states with NEM policies. Most have solar industries growing exponentially, and many have utilities and regulatory commissions struggling with bill charges and other rate structure concepts designed to allocate grid costs.

A Rocky Mountain Power analysis found there were 975,019 kilowatt-hours of solar generated electricity sent to its grid in the most recently documented one-year period, as opposed to PacifiCorp’s 85,869 gigawatt-hours of total 2013 generation.

 The bill charge would reportedly have impacted 2,500 Utah households. Utah solar advocates challenged the utility to stop fighting renewables and efficiency and transition to a more diverse portfolio that meets customers’ demands.

Rocky Mountain Power is a division of PacifiCorp, a subsidiary of Warren Buffett's Berkshire Hathaway Energy.

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