Despite its growing popularity, solar power does have its detractors. Pushback from utilities and lawmakers have made headlines in Arizona and Oklahoma. Now, add Utah to the list.
With a growing solar industry, advocates and utilities now find themselves at odds. Recently, the clean energy advocacy group, Utah Clean Energy, published a report that outlines ways in which the state can foster continued growth of solar power. “A Bright Future: A 10 Year Solar Deployment Plan for Utah” was released in December of last year.
It outlines several steps the state can take to encourage more rooftop solar installations. These include streamlining the permitting process as well as the interconnection process, to make it easier and faster for homeowners to install photovoltaics and for the power to be transmitted across the grid. The report also suggests making solar most cost-effective by increasing the use of storage technology. Perhaps most importantly, the report calls for a rethinking of the utility pricing model for solar.
At least one utility isn’t having it. Rocky Mountain Power is pursuing a proposal that would require Utah solar customers to participate in a three-tier rate structure that consists of a demand charge, a $15 fixed customer charge and a $0.03/kWh charge for the energy used. The utility asserts that the revised net metering proposal is needed because the average solar user underpays for the cost of service by $400 per year.
The proposal is before the Utah Public Service Commission, which suspended the proposal in December, to give the utility time to reach a consensus with solar advocates and other stakeholders on an acceptable rate plan.