Published: Saturday, Jan. 18 2014 3:00 p.m. MST
simplified, the argument they are making is if enough people switch, then the
variable income would drop to a point that it wouldn't cover the fixed
Oh, the humanity! Rocky Mountain Power, now concerned with "treating
customers fairly," while they lobby for yet another rate increase.
I don't produce power. I don't think it unfair to encourage people who
do. Early adopters will pave the way for the rest of us to do this eventually as
prices for this technology decreases.
All across the country power companies are trying to slow the adoption of solar
power by home owners. They use a number of "good" reasons for this but
the real reason is that the use of solar panels by home owners is a disruptive
technology for their monopoly. The fairness issue is interesting
because there is a real debate about whether net metering for home owners costs
the utility or pays them. There are reduced infrastructure costs for the utility
when solar panels are in use. Solar panels have a close match to the highest
need for power by the utility. Both are at their highest on hot summer days. The
thing is no one knows what to count and not count. Until there is agreement on
that, no one can know whether the current rates are fair or not.Something that is known is that taxpayers have spent billions on getting us to
the point that solar power is cost effective for the individual home owner. As
soon as this happens the power companies do all they can to make sure it is not.
Now is that fair?
"Are rate changes needed for customers who generate their own power?"No.
" approximately 2,200 customers like Rossetti who are residential energy
producers are being subsidized unfairly by customers who do not produce
power."Yes, that is exactly what every government solar program
has done, and every solar provider has reaped big benefits. They have taken from
everyone to make money on solar. So why is Solyndra good when they
do it and a home owner evil when he does it? Sounds like crony capitalism to me.
What they need to do is follow the path that Questar Gas did and
"de-couple" the infrastructure cost from variable cost of natural gas.
I use very little natural gas in my home, but still pay a $5 per month
connection fee. RMP should do something similar to this.What RMP is
NOT publicizing is how having so much distributed solar throughout its service
territory actually bolsters their overall system, especially during peak load
times when the sun is shining and everyone has their air conditioning on. RMP
typically has to buy power at the highest rates during these peak times, but
private solar panels curb their need to make those purchases because that is
when the panels are producing the most power.As a public service
monopoly, RMP needs to be working on behalf of its ratepayers -- not just their
shareholders. At a time when we have excessive air pollution and
tightening water resources, solar producers are contributing to better air
quality and reduced water use (less reliance on coal-fired steam plants), and
those solar owners should be recognized/compensated for their reductions in
overall pollution and water use in the state.
Somehow, those that think it is fair for individuals to get retail rates for
excess power generated from solar and wind power at their residences need to
look at the whole picture. They currently are myopic.For homeowners
to sell power back to the power company, they need to sell it on the power grid.
Yet the homeowners do not pay for designing, maintaining, building, or
operating the grid. Yet they want full retail payments for power they generate?
That is both naive and unfair. If they go off the grid and generate 100% of
their own power, great, go for it. If they are using the local power companies
power lines, then they should pay a fee for the use of the local power companies
lines. That is only fair. But then those that want to sell excess
power, but not pay for the use of the lines, they could always go through the
same process that every power generation company does, they can design, get
approval from the State, buy the right-of-way, build, maintain, and operate
their own grid.
Net metering folks should not be subsidizedby the ratepayers who in many
cases are on fixed income. The utility laws need to be updatedto
The proposed rate change is based on absolutely absurd reasoning.The
net-metering tariff only keeps track of how much power was pushed into the grid.
The home-owner uses most of it immediately. If they make a little extra, the
meter runs backward. If not, it runs forward. It is NET metering.RMP benefits because the excess power made comes at a time when need is
greatest (peak solar power output coincides almost perfectly with peak
air-conditioning demand). Solar actually smooths RMP's demand spikes. If
you follow RMP's reasoning, THEY should actually PAY people spending
$28,000 (for the totally FREE solar infrastructure they provide the grid). Letting them use the power they generate seems pretty reasonable.Plus solar is clean. Every solar system helps get rid of the inversion.
Plus solar distributes power production, making it harder to take down. Those
with solar on the roof should be hailed as heros. We need more solar, not less.
Power companies should only have to pay net-metering companies the same
wholesale rate that they pay to any other provider. But, then again,
I would be happy to see the dinosaur utility companies go extinct by having each
consumer source their own utilities wherever possible and to the extent
The "subsidized" argument is nonsense. It's just a
divide-and-conquer tactic. Make the average customer jealous at those who have
invested in solar installations, so they can get their rate increase. In fact,
having power distributed on the retail-customer grid means that the utility
doesn't need to spend additional money on infrastructure to bring power to
the grid from elsewhere. That money would make them more money.Utilities generally get granted rates on an investment "cost plus"
basis. In these days of low interest rates, they'd love to be able to
invest lots more in plant and lines so they can make whatever the public utility
commission will allow them to on their investment, typically 6% or more
annually. Also, those last few kilowatt-hours that they would otherwise have to
buy on the emergency/peak market are super-expensive, and an additional source
of revenue/markup. And those residential solar generators are spoiling their
Should I pay more at the store for lettuce if I also have a home garden, too?
These large corporations are silly for trying to convince the general population
that somehow an "invisible subsidy" is being affected for when they
generate their own electricity. And then translate this "invisible
subsidy" into a dollar amount that qualifies as a rate increase? If
customers sold the electricity they generate, then I could see a conflict. But
generating and using their own energy? Utah is doing the right thing by
investigating these dubious claims, and correctly rewarding consumers who are
smarter than the system and -- more importantly -- financially able to put in a
$28,000 solar panel system. Give the guy credit. He made a smart investment!
Hopefully more people can do likewise!
I don't know how smart it is to spend $28,000 to save $130-$180 per month.
The payoff, discounting considerable ongoing maintenance, is 155 to 215 summer
months, or 26-36 years, assuming 6 months of a/c use. Those are very rough
figures but that's still not a very financially savvy strategy. The
reason solar energy has not been more widely used is simple economics- it's
still way too expensive even when it's generated on economies of scale and
has to be subsidized by unwilling taxpayers. The future may bring improvements
in solar generation but the future is not here now. Personally, I'm waiting
until we can capture lightening in a bottle- with the recent announcement of
advanced chemical storage batteries, that is likely closer than widespread
re FitzMurray, UTSomehow, those that think it is fair for
individuals to get retail rates for excess power generated from solar and wind
power at their residences need to look at the whole picture. They currently are
myopic.-----While all the points you make are correct,
you need to look at the whole picture. These people are contributing to cleaner
air for all of us. These people are paying early (higher) prices for solar
technology. If this industry is to grow, the early adopters will be needed. They
are paving the way for the rest of us.Natural resources are finite
and I appreciate cleaner air. I am willing to pay slightly higher rates to pay
to encourage early adopters of solar technology.
RMP and their friends and supporters in this debate need to step back and look
at the bigger picture. I'll attempt to show them.We all use
electricity and nat gas.We all want to reduce pollution from combustion
related methods of making electricity.We all want to promote sustainable
and enviromentally friendly ways of making electricity.There are other
ideals we all want as far as power for our industries and homes.So RMP
should support those (few) of us who buy a solar panel array for our home's
roof. Looking at the big picture, RMP should get on the solar band wagon and
cover any and all of their buildings' roofs with solar panels, they should
join in a cooperative way any and all groups that operate rooftop systems. And
RMP should spread the cost of designing, developing new voltage controls to
accomodate the variability of solar (and wind) power, spread that cost over all
users, or better yet over the stockholders.RMP does need money to
operate their system; RMP deserves a return on their investment; RMP does not
have a good reason to hit the wallets of the rooftop solar innovators.
I have not made my opinion as of yet on the topic. However, I did notice a
logical inconsistency of Sara Baldwin Auck, Utah Clean Energy senior policy and
regulatory associate. She said, "It should not be the policy of Utah to
interfere in the market and stifle competition. Instead, Utah should continue
to encourage personal investments in energy efficiency and renewable
energy."At the beginning of the article, the author wrote,
"Rocky Mountain Power claims that under current state regulations, the
company is required to credit customers for excess generation at the full retail
rate..."Auck said she doesn't want Utah policy to intefere
with the market. However, Utah policy is already intefering with the market by
forcing the power company to crediting net-metering people more than they would
like. Really, Auck is saying, she currently likes the way the government has
interfered because it helps her cause. I don't disagree with Auck that
people, such as herself, should be reimbursed for the energy they provide. I do
disagree with how she states her opinion, because it makes it sound like she is
promoting less government (something most Utah residents like) when she is not.
In all, Rossetti estimates he spent $28,000 on the project, but he received a 30
percent tax break as an incentive...We wanted to reduce our (electricity)
bills,” Rossetti explained...His monthly cost for air conditioning in the
warm weather months has gone from the $250 to $300 range to about $120. Thus
far, it has been a worthwhile investment, Rossetti said."He
needs to learn a thing or two about "investing". Assuming the maximum
savings ($180) for the 4 months each year we need air conditioning, that equates
to about $720 a year. Even if you expanded it to $1000 savings per year, it
would take 28 years to break even (assuming money spent today has the same value
as money spent 27 years from now).I will invest in solar power when
my ROI is 5 years or less (without defraying the cost onto some other taxpayer
through a subsidy). Let me know when that is feasible.
A $5.00 dollar fee is going to offseet this huge burden? This proposal will
generate $132,000.00. That's not even a drop in the bucket. Not to mention
the fact that these customers actually provide free generating capacity during
@Joe Capitalist. Solar panels generate electricity all year long, not just when
air conditioning is being used. My solar system generated more than 25 kWh
today. I did not use my air conditioning today.
DeseretNews.com encourages a civil dialogue among its readers. We welcome your thoughtful comments.— About comments