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Published: Thursday, May 8 2014 12:00 a.m. MDT

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ECR
Burke, VA

I appreciate your sentiments Lauren but your letter left me uninformed, or should I say uneducated, about what you seem to be saying is an important and unfair situation. As a native of the western United States with plans to retire there in the very near future I am very interested in utility costs and saving energy. I wonder if you, or someone else, could explain how Rocky Mountain power is singling out customers who are trying to reduce energy costs and what it is you have done to save energy and how is Rocky Mountain Power specifically punishing you for your efforts.

I'm not being condescending, I am just genuinely interested.

UtahBlueDevil
Durham, NC

I am sorry, but I feel the charge to be just. Unless you are cutting off your connection to their network, you incur cost to the utility. Even if you are not pulling power off the grid, the utility needs to maintain the infrastructure to provide power to you regardless of the amount you consume. The cost of the line running from your house to the pole, and then to the transformer has to be covered somehow. In most cases the utility absorbs that cost and amortizes over the life of that connection. Your conservation doesn't make that incurred cost go away.

The utility could clear this up by restructuring their billing to include a connection fee, and then a utilization fee. But for right now, the cost of that connection is buried in the usage fees. But until they restructure how they bill, if you are connected to the network, be prepared to pay for that connection.

I say this as someone who fully supports solar. The only way solar is going to work is if it can coexist economically with other sources of energy.

LDS Tree-Hugger
Farmington, UT

Agreed, this is ridiculous...

It's like charging resturant customers more for eating less,
adding $1 for NOT Supersizing,
adding .10 a gallon for those driving hybrids,
and adding a surcharge for airline passengers NOT checking in luggage.

Ridiculous I say!...

2 bits
Cottonwood Heights, UT

It may seem ridiculous, but it's nothing new (especially with utility monopolies).

Remember a few years back when we were encouraged to conserve water in Utah... we did better than anybody expected, and the water utilities complained that they were loosing revenue because everybody cut back too much on using their product... so they had to raise prices so they could stay profitable....

UtahBlueDevil
Durham, NC

If you cut the cable to Rocky Mountain... you own them nothing. As long as that cable is attached to their network, you are costing them money.

The restaurant analogy is perfect. You come it, want to sit at a table, and not order anything... they are not going to allow that. You want to come in, share a meal with someone else, they are going to charge you for the second plate. You have inured them extra expense even if you just ordered on thing to share. You are also using their chair, their table, their air conditioning, and they are paying the mortgage on the building.

So you don't want to pay Rocky Mountain anything, don't do business with them. Don't expect them to provide you back up standby power at no cost to you. That infrastructure and capability cost them money.

I love how everyone wants stuff for free.

Mister J
Salt Lake City, UT

re: LDS Tree-Hugger

"Agreed, this is ridiculous... It's like...adding $1 for NOT Supersizing"

Oh, goody. you have just given Mickey D's their next *big* (pun intended?) idea.

to 2 bits

Wasn't this the same yr they were still watering golf courses EVERY day?

Grover
Salt Lake City, UT

Does no one else see the irony of spending many thousands of dollars to be green and save money on power in the future and then complaining loudly about a charge of $4.50 a month ($54 a year)? My power bill is over $120 a month on equal pay. Get a sense of proportion.

2 bits
Cottonwood Heights, UT

Mister J,

The point I was making is... the Utility company charging you more, because you used less...

===

When we collectively cut back and use less... it cuts into their revenue... so they raise prices.

So don't expect cutting back and using less, to mean you pay less.

If too many people do it... they will just raise prices.

Mister J
Salt Lake City, UT

to 2 bits

I decided to unilaterally be snarky about the hypocrisy of who has to conserve and who the chosen ones (Animal Farm anyone?) are.

Mike Richards
South Jordan, Utah

The power company doesn't like competition. Instead of rewarding customers who feed the power company electricity, they want to punish those customers. The power company benefits from that excess power generation. The power company doesn't have to burn coal to generate it. What the power company wants is to forbid competition. They want to be the only generator of power. They think that being a "government allowed" monopoly, that they should be the only source of power.

I disagree. the power company benefits from that excess power. Not only should they NOT charge a connection fee, they should PAY a fee to access that power. Sure, they pay a minimal amount for the power produced, but if they think they can separate the cost of electricity from the cost of supplying that electricity, the power company should PAY for the privilege of connecting to suppliers.

UtahBlueDevil
Durham, NC

Folks..

"Not only should they NOT charge a connection fee, they should PAY a fee to access that power...."

This just exemplifies how little is known about how the system works. Under Net Metering in most locals, the utility doesn't buy the consumer generated power back at wholesale rates, but pays the same as the meter rate is the consumer pays when they consume power. The Utilities are paying full retail prices... so when they resell that power to someone else, they do so at break even or more often at a loss.

Many of the current billing schemes were not designed to support a network where you have consumers both generating and consuming power.

And yes, there are many cases of volume based pricing where the less you consume, the higher the unit price is - because there are fixed cost woven into the cost structure that need to be recovered. Whether you use a lot, or a little, plants, transformers, transmission stations and lines... they all need to be paid for.

The Real Maverick
Orem, UT

RMP has bought off too many of our legislators with their abundant free speech. Our repub Legislators love free speech. It's the reason why they went into government.

There are even some who preach "that you can buy anything in this world with free speech!"

Are we willing to sell anything for free speech? Our environment? Our health? Our well being?

We should all demand to break up the RMP monopoly. We the people must rise up because our repub legislature certainly won't.

Mike Richards
South Jordan, Utah

re: UtahBlueDevil,

Okay, why not break the bill down into component parts? Why not require Rocky Mountain Power to bill separately for the lines going to the home and power used by the home? Charging one customer for a connection, when that customer uses or might use power and not charging another customer who has shutoff his power for an extended absence is discrimination. Either everyone has to pay the fee and the fee has to be billed separate from the power used or nobody has to pay a fee for connection.

Would you like to pay a "dispensing fee" of some sort if you only need to buy one cup of gas for your hi-bred vehicle per "fill up"? After all, gas stations are there to make money. Why shouldn't they charge a dispensing fee separate from the fee for fuel?

2 bits
Cottonwood Heights, UT

@Maverick,
Re "We should all demand to break up the RMP monopoly"...

That's just silly.

Have you really thought about what you are suggesting?

Imagine the expense and disruption required to have 2 (or 3) sets of gas lines going to each house? And several company's electric wires going to each house? And different water lines for different water companies?

That's absurd!

===

We grant a monopoly to these companies willingly. But in exchange for that... we limit them. They can't raise their rates without approval from our representatives.

It's not really a "monopoly"... they can't crank up the rates, because WE control the rates (they have to be approved by the public utilities commission).

So it's not a true "monopoly" (where they charge anything they want). They have to make their case to the public utilities commission... and if it makes sense they say "yes". If it doesn't make sense then they say "no".

State public utility commissions regulates:

prices charged to retail customers
standards to ensure safety and reliability of product
boundaries of service area
bookkeeping methods
matters relating to financial reorganization
proposed purchases, sales or change in status of property
company mergers

Strider303
Salt Lake City, UT

Not wild about the extra fee, but I understand the reasoning.

I think one way to reduce consumption is to do an energy audit of your home. Seriously review what appliances are phantom users of power, get serious about turning off lights, appliances and limiting use. Try scheduling change outs of incandescent to LED over a planned time-table.

Ceiling fans help reduce A/C costs, awnings, shades. Heavens (I was going to use the antithesis word but it wouldn't pass the editor) our grandparents lived here and used a lot less energy, so can we if we use our heads.

Oh, books educate and entertain and use less power that Big Screen TV, but I digress.

The Real Maverick
Orem, UT

"We grant a monopoly to these companies willingly. But in exchange for that... we limit them. They can't raise their rates without approval from our representatives."

Exactly. And what happens when our reps are in bed with this monopoly?

What's wrong with breaking up RMP? Why not privatize it? What's wrong with a lil but of competition?

I'm personally getting tired of people like 2 bits acting like more government bloat and monopoly is the answer to everything. Break up RMP, privatize it, and let companies compete for our energy needs!

UtahBlueDevil
Durham, NC

Miek... your being silly. Power is a regulated industry that provides its services by charter from the local municipalities. They have fixed cost providing service to your house. Your establishment you use that might have a "dispensing fee" does not have a fixed cost to serve you. You don't have a contracted service. They don't have to have a cup with your name on it, with a service SLA that will deliver drinks to your house 24/7, 365 days a year. You establishment isn't compelled to rrestore your drinks should a storm come along and nock out your cup. It's so not the same.... my head is spinning.

Your cell phone... There is a connection monthly fee to be connected to their network regardless if you use your phone.. And of course they give discounts for volume. And they aren't even a monopoly. They have an infrastructure cost to carry you. There is a connection fee built into those units. Land phone line... you got a monthly bill if you used your phone on not.

No One Of Consequence
West Jordan, UT

If you don't like the fee, don't pay it. Disconnect. Buy enough batteries and solar panels to get through the night without relying on RMP and a generator for the cloudy days.

Like it or not there are administrative costs associated with the two-way power connection that are not incurred when servicing one-way customers. Those costs should not be paid by the rest of us.

And no, I don't work for RMP.

Baron Scarpia
Logan, UT

Being a monopoly is great for RMP, especially if it can influence regulators and legislator into thinking energy is a "free market" -- which it isn't, but our regulators act on the belief of "markets over mandates," and often refrain from directing RMP to act in the public interest.

Some facts about RMP's monopoly status: One, RMP owns many coal-fired power plants that solar is now replacing. This threatens its investments.

Two, with carbon taxes coming down the pike and Utah's slow adoption of renewable energy, Utahns will be hit hard on those costs in the coming decade. As a monopoly, RMP will be able to simply pass those costs onto ratepayers. Sadly, because ratepayers have no choice in a monopoly market and can't push RMP to move into clean, non-carbon sources, ratepayers will be left paying the bill.

Three, RMP charges MORE for renewable energy in its Blue Sky program, even when renewable energy is cheaper than fossil fuel rates-- giving rate payers the false price signal that renewable energy is always MORE expensive, when it isn't.

Ah, the joys of monopoly!

Commodore
West Jordan, UT

What rubs me the wrong way about RMP's request for more $ is the fact that every year they donate a lot of $ to various organizations. I'm not against charity, as I give $ to organizations that I believe in.

What I'm against is a monopoly (RMP) demanding more and more from my pocket and then donating it to organizations that I may or may not support. If i want to support an organization then I will consciously choose to do so. It really just doesn't seem right for an organization, granted a monopoly by government, to be charging such excess rates as to be able to throw wheelbarrows full of cash at organizations of their choice.

If anything RMP should be forced to pay for clean energy as it reduces their environmental impact (aka carbon emissions and other pollutants). Collectively we should be very concerned about the terrible health impacts caused by coal power plants. They should be incentivized/prodded to reduce their environmental and health impacts.

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