Rocky Mountain Power weighs in on Utah residents’ alternative energy costs

<p dir=”ltr”><span>Rocky Mountain Power, one of the biggest energy suppliers in Utah, recently met with the Utah Public Service Commission to talk about the state’s pricing system for alternative energy usage in residential homes.</span>

<p dir=”ltr”><span>As the</span> <span>Utah Public Radio</span> <span>and</span> <span>The Salt Lake Tribune</span> <span>report, state lawmakers and energy administrators have been struggling to make alternative energy sources available to homeowners while also creating a fair and effective pricing system.</span>

<p dir=”ltr”><span>Solar power energy has become one of the fastest growing alternative energy sources, not only because solar power provides a guaranteed return on investment, but also because the costs of solar panel installations have decreased substantially. In fact, the average cost of solar panels in the U.S. has gone down by 80% since 2008.</span>

<p dir=”ltr”><span>Rocky Mountain Power is collaborating with state departments in order to find a middle ground and a fair way to charge both non meter and meter-paying customers. The company holds a regulated monopoly over the electric utility service supplied to its customers and therefore must receive approval for any price adjustment from the Utah PSC after a full public process.</span>

<p dir=”ltr”><span>UPR</span> <span>notes that about 3,000 residents in Utah now use solar panels and/or wind generators for electricity. When there isn’t enough sun or wind to produce energy naturally, these residents turn to Rocky Mountain Power for electricity. All Utah residents are connected to the utility system but are free to use self-generation power alternatives in order to lower their monthly usage costs.</span>

<p dir=”ltr”><span>A system called net-metering is currently in place in Utah, as well as in 43 other states across the country. Net-metering allows residents to use their own solar panels and wind generators, without any additional costs, unless they need to turn to Rocky Mountain for extra energy.</span>

<p dir=”ltr”><span>In other words, when residents can rely 100% on solar or wind energy, Rocky Mountain Power will be able to generate the same net revenue by charging meter-paying customers a moderate sum of $4.25 to make up the difference of non-meter paying customers.</span>

<p dir=”ltr”><span>Rocky Mountain Power proposed a fee that would require homeowners to pay the same amount of money each month, regardless of how much energy is coming from personal solar panels or wind generators.</span>

<p dir=”ltr”><span>“The</span> <span>proposed fee was to cover the fixed costs of providing connection to the utility system, which net metering customers still utilize,” said David Eskelson, company spokesman for Rocky Mountain Power.</span> <span>“</span><span>This proposal is similar to what other kinds of customers pay for utility service with specific needs.”</span>

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<p dir=”ltr”><span>The Utah Public Service Commission ruled in 2014 that they would defer any decision on the facilities charge for net metering customers until after a specific inquiry to assess in more detail the costs and benefits of net metering is made. Since then, they have had one other meeting, with a three-day public hearing scheduled for October 6 of this year.</span>

<p dir=”ltr”><span>“The Division of Public Utilities and Office of Consumer Services help the commission analyze commission requests and arrive at a fair rate for customers,” said Eskelson. “Both agreed that the $4.25 facilities charge was reasonable and that there was enough evidence to say that was a fair way to handle it.”</span>

<p dir=”ltr”><span>Rock Mountain Power believes that the subsidy is something that needs to be dealt with, and there are more than one was to accomplish this — a facilities charge being just one option. How that will eventually be handled remains to be seen. The outcome of the October 6th public hearing will inform those affected.</span>

<p dir=”ltr”><span>“The company is currently seeking a rate design that’s fair for all customers and they are working with regulatory staff agencies in the state who also agree that these rates need to be fixed,” concluded Eskelson.</span>

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