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Health, Science & Environment

Public Weighs In On Rooftop Solar Decision

Judy Fahys
Jennifer Dailey Provost holds her 8-month-old daughter, Maggie, while she urges the Utah's Public Service Commission to reject the power company's rooftop solar rate request. More than 140 spoke on both sides of the issue.

It took nearly seven hours for Utah’s Public Service Commission to hear all the people who wanted to speak Wednesday about solar energy.

The three commissioners listened as more than 140 people weighed in Rocky Mountain Power’s request to have rooftop solar customers pay more to stay connected to the regional electric grid.

“Rooftop solar is a cost to the grid,” said Brent Donohue, an electrical union leader for power-company employees.

He told commissioners that higher solar rates would ensure poor customers are not subsidizing wealthier ones. “The challenge for all concerned parties is to have a rate system that accurately values electricity that flows in different directions, at different volumes and at different times of day.”

Others criticized the proposal as a drag on the state’s solar boom. They urged commissioners to make Utah a solar leader --- for the fast-growing solar industry and for solar customers who have already made the investment, in part, to help clean up the air and combat climate change.

“My understanding that RMP’s net metering restructure of those [rooftop solar] rates is very similar to what they did in Nevada, and we can see how that killed the industry there,” said, Allison Jones, a Murray resident with rooftop solar. “Please don’t allow us to be on the wrong side of history on the solar front.’

Hearings next week are for technical arguments, but it’s not clear exactly when commissioners will decide.

“I don’t know what the timetable is for the commission in terms of issuing an order,” said Gary Widerberg, the PSC administrator. “But it will be soon after the hearings are completed.”

Rocky Mountain Power and its opponents have been negotiating behind the scenes. If they reach a compromise, those hearings could be shortened or scrapped for now.

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