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Health, Science & Environment

Residential Solar Users Asked to Pay More for Power

Utah Clean Energy

Rocky Mountain Power subsidizes new solar power installations through its Blue Sky program. But it’s also insisting it needs additional money from residential customers who have solar panels on their homes.

The Utah Public Service Commission is preparing for a hearing next week on Rocky Mountain Power’s request for residential solar power users to pay four dollars and 65 cents a month to connect their homes to the grid.

Dave Eskelsen with Rocky Mountain Power says the utility has to recover its fixed costs from so-called net metering customers who sell their excess electricity back to the grid. The company argues other residential customers shouldn’t have to pay that cost.

“The net metering participation has been growing rapidly," Eskelsen tells KUER, "but it’s still a relatively small number of customers and does not involve a large dollar number in terms of subsidy. But we’re seeing in other states that it is a significant issue and a significant problem. The time to redesign the rate structure is now.”

The Public Service Commission has received hundreds of public comments opposed to the charge from supporters of solar power. Christopher Thomas with HEAL Utah says Rocky Mountain Power is just trying to make up for money it stands to lose from customers who buy less from the grid.

Thomas tells KUER, “This solar fee really is based those people not using as much energy paying an additional fee. And that’s a really mixed message at a time when we’re also hearing that we need to be conserving energy.”

The net metering fee only applies to residential customers. The power company says the fixed costs for business customers are already included in the rates they pay.

The Public Service Commission hearing on the net metering fee is set to begin next Monday, with public comment planned for Tuesday evening at 5:00 in Room 403 of the Heber M. Wells State Office Building at 160 East 300 South in Salt Lake City.

CORRECTION:  Includes date and time of the PSC hearing in final paragraph.  This was incorrect in an earlier version.

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