Play Live Radio
Next Up:
0:00 0:00
Available On Air Stations

Environmental Group Fights 'Solar Penalty'

Thomas Sallai
Flickr Creative Commons

An environmental group says it’s a bad idea to hike the cost of clean-energy investments that are good for the community. That’s why the group HEAL Utah is rallying against Rocky Mountain Power’s request to charge solar-panel owners a new fee. HEAL’s Matt Pacenza calls the $4.25-a-month charge a “solar penalty.”

“These are people who have put up their own money, thousands of dollars, in order to do the right thing – to use less energy, to pollute less, to produce less carbon,” says Pacenza. “These are people who are really putting their money where their mouth is. And, instead of making it more difficult and more expensive, we should be figuring out ways to make it easier and cheaper.”

Pacenza points out that the new charge would increase the time it takes homeowners to recoup their investment in solar panels. And he contends the power company has not proven solar panels are such a burden on the utility.

Rocky Mountain Power is also asking the Utah Public Service Commission to increase residential service rates from $5 to $8 a month. Rocky Mountain Power spokesman Dave Eskelsen explains the company needs to raise rates by 76.3 million dollars to cover its fixed costs.

“These are costs that don’t change with how much energy you use,” says Eskelsen. “In your energy bill, there’s the kilowatt hours charge which is for the energy you’ve consumed, but there’s also a requirement for the wires, poles, transformers, substations – the physical equipment that’s required to deliver the energy to your home.”

Eskelsen says the Public Service Commission is having public hearings on the requests later in April and May.

Meanwhile, Pacenza’s group is urging ratepayers to persuade commissioners to reject the solar charge.

Judy Fahys has reported in Utah for two decades, covering politics, government and business before taking on environmental issues. She loves covering Utah, where petroleum-pipeline spills, the nation’s radioactive legacy and other types of pollution provide endless fodder for stories. Previously, she worked for the Salt Lake Tribune in Utah, and reported on the nation’s capital for States News Service and the Scripps League newspaper chain. She is a longtime member of the Society of Environmental Journalists and Investigative Reporters and Editors. She also spent an academic year as a research fellow in the Knight Science Journalism program at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. In her spare time, she enjoys being out in the environment, especially hiking, gardening and watercolor painting.
KUER is listener-supported public radio. Support this work by making a donation today.