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Comments about ‘Critics decry solar fee as 'sun' tax’

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Published: Tuesday, July 29 2014 8:21 p.m. MDT

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Fitness Freak
Salt Lake City, UT

How about if Rocky Mtn. Power just take all the money that they spend on goofy "watt smart" television ads and use THAT money to fuel their profits?

We get it. Turn off the lights - save money. How many ads do we need to figure that out?

Demisana
South Jordan, UT

Ok... since they incurred no costs to generate the power, their overall cost just dropped. Cut the price they pay the generator of the electricity, maybe. But to outright tax people who just paid thousands of dollars for their solar system is ridiculous.

collegestudent25
Cedar City, UT

People are clearly missing the point here. They are using the infrastructure put in place by the power company. It is only fair.

A Chem Engineer
Pocatello, ID

I never cease to be amazed at the number of people who do not understand business finance. It is as simple as this folks: A steady consistent draw of power from a major source, 24/7, yields the lowest operating cost possible, whether it be a nuclear power plant, a coal-fired plant, or whatever. Operating cost translates directly into purchase price for the customer.

However, if you take that same major power source and have to keep jacking the output around - high output for a few hours, then low output for a few hours - then maybe have to shut it down for a few hours - then start it back up and go for high power output - - WOW - - what an inefficient, expensive way to run the equipment! And guess what that does to your purchase price.

So, what on earth would prompt a utility to run their power plants in such a haphazard fashion? Um, maybe the rising and setting of the sun, with a few storms mid-day thrown in to just spice things up, and then dumping that haphazard solar energy into the grid!! How about that!

A Chem Engineer
Pocatello, ID

[continuation]
Batteries can be used to smooth out the haphazard surges in solar-generated electricity, but consumers are not usually willing to spend 2-3 times more money for their installation to buy the batteries, digital controller, etc. needed to make that happen.
And why should they? They don't care that it forces the utilities, who are required to take the power they haphazardly dump on the grid, to operate in a much more expensive fashion. Somebody else is always there to pay the cost for them.
Until now.
Frankly, $5 or so a month is not bad, all things considered. Anyone who wants to try solar, and doesn't want to pay that, can invest in batteries, the controls, and take themselves off the grid with their new "green power source". Of course, their much more expensive system means they will be paying a lot more for their "home-grown" electricity....

mjkkjk
Nowhere, 00

@demisana

You're talking about the variable cost of generating power which Rocky Mountain is NOT charging. The fixed costs include the infrastructure to support the potential power creation.

Although I'm not supporting either side on this, I get what Rocky Mountain is saying. If you want to be connected to the grid just in case your solar equipment fails, then they have to have enough infrastructure in place to make that possible. Same thing if solar customers want a credit for sending power back to the grid. Infrastructure is needed to support that. Why should non-solar customers have to pay for that? It kind of sounds like solar customers want to enjoy all of the benefits and pass the actual costs on to everyone else.

However, I'm sure I don't have all of the info on this so someone else may be able to correct me

Lionheart
West Jordan, Ut

RMP has been very proactive in promoting energy savings and alternate sources of power. Although the fee isn't much, it appears to represent a shift in focus. We have had so many subsidies that encourage development of alternate energy sources that maybe we are spoiled and are beginning to think entitlement. That is not a healthy attitude.

What if we just allow supply and demand to regulate costs? We need less people who think they know what is best for our future controlling costs with taxes and subsidies. People are beginning to use solar because it makes sense and saves cents. If we continue the socialistic practices of trying to regulate equality and uniformity (viz Obamacare) we stifle creativity and development.

Midwest Mom
Soldiers Grove, WI

Another example of how privatizing public goods makes things more affordable. Or not.

Some goods and services are best managed publicly. Example: the growing need for new antibiotics. The need to make a profit doesn't always give us the best outcome.

omni scent
taylorsville, UT

Chem Engineer, it's not exactly as simple as that. Yes, a steady constant draw of power from a major source is best for operating costs, but when is the load a constant? It turns out that people use the most electricity on hot summer afternoons to power their AC, precisely when the sun is shining. We should be thanking the solar customers who provide the extra power to the grid when we need it most.

Aggie238
Logan, UT

Why don't they just charge everyone who connects to the grid a "connection fee" to cover infrastructure costs, regardless of whether they are a solar or traditional customer, and then bill them for the net amount of energy they use? (Or, in the case of someone who puts more power into the system than they use, pay them the going rate.) Or is this essentially what RMP is doing? Seems like that would be the fair approach. Charging solar customers an *extra* fee for connection that is not charged to other customers would be unfair.

Eliyahu
Pleasant Grove, UT

RMP needs to make up for revenue lost when solar customers decrease their demand? What about those of us who simply use less power by adding home insulation, buying more efficient appliances, turning off lights, adjusting the thermostat, etc.? Will they stick us with a surcharge as well to make up for lost revenue?

@Midwest Mom
Soldiers Grove, WI

"Another example of how privatizing public goods makes things more affordable. Or not."

Yep. Some things work better as public utilities. And for those unfamiliar with it, "Midwest Mom's" town of Soldiers Grove is an excellent example of planning for the effective use of solar energy and conservation of resources. Google it and consider that they're in a far less suitable place for solar energy use than we are and yet have made it an effective part of their lives.

LoBo4Justice
Coalville, UT

In order to transition to clean renewable energy and the job-creating economy that goes with it, the market can be a force for good. When the entire cost, including damage to the environment and related health problems, is factored into the cost of generating electricity through the use of coal and is passed onto consumers, the leap to renewable sources will be a lot easier. Subsidies keep the price of coal-generated electricity artificially low. Raising the rates on those consumers who are doing the right thing--the thing we should all be doing--only exacerbates the existing problem. RMP has been involved in renewable energy projects throughout the West and should be encouraged to increase its investment in renewables. Perhaps they should be charging non-solar users the extra $5 and use those funds for upgrading their lines and hardware for the transmission of solar power from solar users to the grid, making the transition to solar power easier for those of us who would like to do the right thing and helping to ensure delivery during peak times for everybody dependent upon coal-fired plants.

Ryan9
Grantsville, UT

Solar-equipped homes are ALREADY paying the obligatory monthly surcharge that every home must pay, regardless of how much energy is used. Now, RMP wants to change the deal on them after suckering them into investing thousands of dollars in solar hardware, hardware that benefits RMP as much as it benefits the owner. The only expense incurred to RMP was the cost of the Netmeter, and they get them very cheap. This new charge is just another big-business trick to suck more money out of our pockets. If we let this one slide, next year it will go up, and then up again, and again. There is no cap on greed, and that is all this charge is about.

DesertDan
Sandy, UT

Chem Engineer is unaware of generating sources in the mix. They include coal, slow to respond to changes, as well as gas and hydro that are faster. The issue capacity for peak demand.

RMP claims solar output doesn't exactly match their residential peak demand curve. This is disingenuous because residential is not their actual demand curve. It is used to set peak billing periods for residential customers to maximize their bills. Their actual demand curve matches the solar curve very well.

The grid is a shared public resource. Solar users strain it less because they use less electricity. When they produce excess it goes through their pole transformer to their neighbors, scarcely affecting even the local substation.

The real fear is that RMP will drive away the independent solar producers. New advances make it feasible to produce all of the electricity for a household at competitive costs. If citizen producers exit the grid rather than pay extra for their sharing then there will be fewer on the grid to cover the costs. RMP needs to partner with producers to make the grid more robust and secure than it is today with the advantages of distributed production.

Ogrepete
Sandy, UT

If you don't want to pay the extra fee, cut the connection.

That's a pretty simple way to get out of paying this $5/month fee. The fact is, generating your own power really messes with the business model of a utility company - kind of throws a money wrench in the works.

Evets
Eagle Mountain, UT

This whole issue is to recover revenue lost over the last several years and not a few residential solar users. The WSJ did a pretty good analysis this week on the electrical power industry. It found that revenue has been flat to negative (growth) across the industry. For about 50 years the power industry was able to grow at least 2% or more each year. That is not the case today. About 4 years ago people started cutting back on energy use. Manufacturing also cut back or shut down due to the economy. Appliances became way more efficient and so did homes. Recent trends also not only mean that people installed generating capacity but so did industry and government. Result: no growth or negative growth of profits. Now the electrical generating industry is coming up with new ways to gather revenue. Solar tax is only the beginning.

Baron Scarpia
Logan, UT

Just points of clarification here:

@Chem Engineer -- the problem with coal and nuclear is that they are 24/7 sources that cannot be throttled up or down to meet variations in demand or the presence of variable renewable resources. Replacing coal with natural gas is good because gas can be ramped up and down to meet load easily -- and it can be turned on or off when renewable sources come on or die down. Think of it this way: When the sun is shining, you don't have to burn costly fossil fuel. Coal and nuclear can't be shut off easily, so you end up with negative pricing in some places where utilities then have too much energy on the system and have to pay to have it consumed elsewhere.

Regarding subsidies, fossil fuels are highly subsidized, from the rail roads that transport the fuels to black lung disease that the federal government covers for coal miners to subsidized water to create the steam to turn turbines to sweetheart land deals on BLM land to extract the fossil fuels. Here in Utah, we have no severance fees on coal, a major subsidy.

EdwardB
Carefree, AZ

This idea that the utilities are more efficient when they can provide a constant never changing output is overblown, incorrect, deceitful, and does not reflect the real world. All utilities face diurnal shifts in demand based on night and day.. awake and asleep. They must adjust output continuously 24/7 x 365...it's an essential element of the business. The addition of a new variable of outside power onto the grid is infinitesimal in the scale of their output..small enough that the "grid" would not even notice. Also, as solar grows, the day in day out variables will be entirely predictable and just as manageable as demand...In fact the automatic instruments that manage output from demand are already in place and running the system. The Utilities are lying when they say they need to replace lost revenue..they are looking for new revenue streams where they can profit from the investment of others.

RMPlstiltskin
Ivins, UT

Customers should direct their ire at RMP (not solar customers). RMP argues that our excess electricity mismatches peak demand. First, WHY should SOLAR customers ALONE be held responsible for meeting peak demand? Second, most Utah homes consume much electricity during this peak, which our excess electricity helps offset. Our solar home, in fact, generates excess kWhs. RMP then sells it at the FULL rate, without having incurred any costs. Solar customers are NOT free riders! Non-solar and solar customers alike pay for what they use, with a certain % of every per kWh charge covering infrastructure costs. Moreover, why not also surcharge non-solar customers who reduce their electric bills via means other than solar (e.g., LEDs)?

S.B. 208 stipulates that solar's costs & benefits must be documented before ANY net-metering charge is contemplated. RMP's cost study involved a small & biased sample, and RMP refused to calculate any benefits, including RMP's aforementioned profits.

Solar homes will disconnect from RMP's grid once battery storage is available. RMP will no longer receive our excess electricity, which will disadvantage everyone's due to increased electricity bills, and damage to EVERYONE'S health and environment.

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