Rocky Mountain Power, Utah solar advocates reach net metering settlement
- A broad range of stakeholders have reached a compromise in Utah's net metering debate, allowing for current Rocky Mountain Power's current solar customers or those who submit before Nov. 15 to maintain their retail rate credits through 2035.
- The agreement sets a three-year transition period to provide export credits for rooftop solar customers, while the utility studies a new method of compensation after a value of solar study concludes.
- The settlement was annnounced this week by Gov. Gary Herbert's office, which said the deal provides a "glide path for sustainable rooftop solar development."
The Utah net metering compromise grandfathers in current customers for almost 20 years, but work done over the next three years may have the most impact.
During the transition period, customers and solar companies "will be able to adjust and adapt to a new unsubsidized program for solar generation exported to the grid," according to a statement from the parties to the agreement. And the value of that energy will be determined by the Public Service Commission based on a value of solar study that that RMP agreed to perform and is set to conclude in 2020.
More than a dozen parties signed onto the settlement, including the Utah Division of Public Utilities, Utah Office of Consumer Services, Rocky Mountain Power, Vivint Solar, Utah Clean Energy and the Utah Solar Energy Association.
Chris Parker, director of the Utah Division of Public Utilities, noted in a statement that separating the value of customer generation from the rates customers pay for utility usage, the settlement "ultimately minimizes subsidies between customer groups."
The Public Service Commission must still approve the settlement. It would provide for new customers in the transition period to receive credits of $0.092/kWh. The average homeowner pays about a penny more than that, according to The Salt Lake Tribune.
David Bywater, CEO of Vivint Solar, said the compromise required give on both sides, but will ultimately be good for the state's industry. "We believe transparency and certainty in the regulatory process benefit all Utahns," he said. "Throughout the next several years, Vivint Solar will continue to support Utah's solar pioneers and those who come after as we work to determine the true value of solar energy and its long-term benefits."
The settlement is the latest in a suite of agreements between solar companies and utilities to resolve net metering disputes. New York was the first, followed by Colorado, New Hampshire and Arizona. Arizona's settlement, however differed in a key way: both parties came to the table after regulators decided to exchange the retail rate net metering program for rates modeled upon utilities' avoided costs.
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