Op-ed: Rooftop solar systems actually offer more benefits than costs

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  • jackjoh RIVERTON, UT
    June 19, 2017 9:25 a.m.

    I agree with cmsense - Kaysville, UT. All users should pay the same connection fee.

  • UtahBlueDevil Durham, NC
    June 15, 2017 7:26 p.m.

    "Wind and solar are usually about 5-10 times more expensive and often come on when they are not needed and overwhelm the grid."

    Yeah.... I mean who would ever think power demand is from noon until about 6 pm? Who uses things like air conditioning in the middle of the day.

    (sigh)

  • Brad Peterson South Ogden, UT
    June 15, 2017 10:14 a.m.

    This op-ed is wrong. This is unfair to the rest of us.

    Rooftop solar panels get to sell electricity back at rates far, far higher than what it costs Rocky Mountain to generate them. Rocky Power is also legally obligated to purchase this extra expensive power. Rocky Mountain then raises electricity rates because they need the extra money to buy this pricey power.

    Don't get me wrong, I love solar, and am going to get solar in a few years myself. But if the goal is to save money, you're doing it by charging the rest of us more. And if the goal is cleaner power, Rocky Mountain can generate solar *much* cheaper by having a large array of panels out in a big open field in the desert.

  • wyoscienceteacher Lovell, WY
    June 15, 2017 10:08 a.m.

    You cannot power modern industrialized civilization by collecting sunlight from the sky. It is too dilute and intermittent. Solar power connected to the grid is parisitical. It must be propped up by reliable energy sources that can actually be controlled. Because of the need to speed up and slow down the production of energy from reliable sources like coal, natural gas, and nuclear (natural gas is the only one of these that can really ramp up or down in a moderately efficient way) when energy from unreliable solar (or wind) does come online, those reliable sources are reduced in efficiency (and thus increased in cost). This increase in cost has to paid for by everyone who uses the system from industry down to the individual household.

    If you disconnect your home from the grid and use a battery array then you are welcome to that, otherwise you must accept the fact that your intermittent addition to the power grid is an inefficient burden.

    Until you can control the flow of energy from solar power with the development of affordable mass storage, it will be no better than a burden on the power grid that powers our civilization and will hinder human flourishing.

  • samhill Salt Lake City, UT
    June 15, 2017 9:27 a.m.

    I've been thinking of installing solar panels for at least the last 10-12 years. But, I've always lived a pretty frugal, conservationist life style in my 1,800 sq. ft. evaporatively-cooled house and average only about $30/mo. in electricity bills.

    The costs have come down quite a bit in that time but are still high enough to make it tough to justify the steep initial and very long-term amortized expense to install a solar system, even though my south-facing back roof would be an ideal place for one.

    I've heard of programs in other states and countries where the electric utility company pays the installation costs for a solar system, retaining ownership and maintenance responsibility for the system while leasing the roof space on the houses with compensation to the owners by a discount to their electric bill. That would seem to be an elegant win/win solution to my and I would guess many others' problem of marginal value.

    Perhaps we in Utah should consider something like that?

  • What in Tucket? Provo, UT
    June 15, 2017 9:24 a.m.

    They told us it would be $4 9,000 to install. Then they said $39,000 and our electrical bill would be $180. Since it is $100 it did not seem very practical. Wind and solar are usually about 5-10 times more expensive and often come on when they are not needed and overwhelm the grid.

  • UtahBlueDevil Durham, NC
    June 15, 2017 9:02 a.m.

    The problem is that the reality is the Grid as we know it is dying. Rather than one huge (and vulnerable) grid, we are moving towards millions of micro grids. This will radically change the way we generate, distribute, and consume energy.

    We are a long way away from that tipping point where the Grid as we know it collapses as a business entity, but the march in that direction has begun. Power companies see this, and are trying to figure out how to rationalize the massive sunk expense they have in infrastructure. The models that justified this huge investment where the payback came in the timeframe of decades, is now seeing significant disruption on the horizon.

    Both the value and supply chain in energy is in a state of flux... so don't be surprised to see more changes in how those who invested in the grid try to recoup those cost. And if you connect to the grid, please don't be surprised to see changes in how you are billed for that connection.

    Don't like it.... disconnect.

  • Wyomex Burlington, WY
    June 15, 2017 8:42 a.m.

    We subsidize what we want to grow. But why subsidize home systems that cost 12 cents or more per Kwh when large scale solar arrays cost 4 cents per Kwh?

    Some would do solar regardless of financial incentives, but most did it for tax benefits (credits), cost savings (i.e. not paying for utility company fixed costs) and payback (the utility company buying back excess power).

    For most, solar made sense financially - not for any save-the-environment reason.

    But what about others?

    What about those who don’t benefit from tax credits because they don’t have the tax liability to offset? Those who can’t afford the initial costs? Tenants instead of homeowners?

    Wouldn’t these people also benefit from solar?

    Too often, governmental policies enacted for the "common good" were really lobbied by a few for the benefit of a few. Individual rooftop solar is in that category. It benefits a few at the expense of many. A large scale, less expensive, utility-wide solar power system would benefit all.

    I'm glad to share with my neighbor, but how much better it would be to get three times as much benefit from my tax dollars and help ALL my neighbors instead of just a few.

  • Red Smith American Fork, UT
    June 15, 2017 7:33 a.m.

    Solar is the future for water conservation, clean air, and net zero energy.

    I put solar on my house and make more power than I can use. I'll give away $300 in free power to Rocky Mountain power, so how am I not paying fair share?

    The Power Cartel is squarely against solar and misleads the public. Utah's lawmakers have fallen for the bait and cut the solar credit which was really nothing anyway.

    I was charged sales tax on my system can be about equal to the so called Utah tax credit.

    Tax me upfront, then give my money back a years later. Some tax credit. That's a poor policy of paperwork for nothing.

    My house produces enough power for all my power uses plus 2 cars plus gives free power to Rocky Mountain Power at peak demand. This is the best for me, and my neighbors.

    This means, when I get electric cars I will no longer buy and burn gasoline polluting the air ever again.

    Imagine the Salt Lake Valley with no gasoline fumes and the health benefits from that.

    We should end sales tax on Solar systems and end the Power Cartel's grip on our power grid.

    Solar is the future. The sooner every house has solar, the sooner our air will be clean and our reservoirs full.

  • EPJ Grantsville, UT
    June 15, 2017 6:52 a.m.

    @ Spoc - Ogden, Utah
    "Or, buy enough panels to cover the fixed costs and your bill will be zero."

    Every March, RMP erases all excess kilowatt hour credits from homeowners with solar panels. Who do you think benefits from that policy?

  • Baron Scarpia Logan, UT
    June 15, 2017 6:32 a.m.

    For all the talk about "subsidies" for homeowners, let's not forget that RMP and other utility monopolies as well as all the power companies are enriched by subsidies for everything from the water they consume to produce the gas- and coal-generated power to the federal assistance for railroads to transport that fuel to the ObamaCare needed for black lung disease and other ailments caused by coal mining. Oh yes, and in Utah, there's no severance tax on coal extraction. In short, the corporations get massive energy subsidies -- why can't homeowners?

    Utility monopolies need to modernize and seize the opportunities in services beyond just producing and distributing power. That 19th century model is dying, and relying on government to save it is ridiculous! What about building charging stations for electric vehicles? What about energy efficiency services for corporations seeking bottom-line savings? The Wall Street Journal had an article last week about how savvy utilities are modernizing to the 21st century to seek new revenue streams that don't require government assistance and protections that soak ratepayers and taxpayers.

  • Capsaicin Salt Lake City, UT
    June 15, 2017 3:13 a.m.

    Solar wind hydro nuclear geothemal are subsidies I support. Some of these industries are thriving. Lets pull back some of the subsidies we give them and let the respective industry exist in a more natural less-subsidized state. There are nuclear reactor designs that prevent meltdown during natural desasters that haven't been implemented and built because the industry hasnt been allowed to expand for decades. There are documentaries in youtube explaining the designs. Nuclear is something we should be pursuing. But also should be persuiting solar and wind because free is free. Even if it takes 20-30 years for a return on investment! The less natural gas and oil we burn, the less pollution entering our lungs!

  • Wyomex Burlington, WY
    June 14, 2017 10:36 p.m.

    Subsidies for home solar customers exist on all levels - Federal, State and Local, but Local is by far the biggest WHEN rooftop Solar customers:

    1) do not pay for the fixed costs of using the "grid" (which most use as a "battery" by sending excess power to the grid and drawing from it when needed.)

    2) are paid RETAIL rates for their excess power under Net Metering rules.

    Homeowner subsidies are really a transfer of wealth (from most tax payers to a few) decided by politicians with input from persuasive solar industry lobbyists.

    Compare large scale solar projects at around 4 cents per Kwh versus individual rooftop solar systems around 12 cents per Kwh. Why should tax subsidies go to individuals when those tax dollars would be better spent on projects that would benefit all?

    Too often, governmental policies supposedly enacted for the "common good" were really lobbied by a few for the benefit of a few. Rooftop solar is in that category.

  • Bearone Monroe, UT
    June 14, 2017 9:16 p.m.

    Spoc----

    We are not using RMP's services, equipment, etc for nothing. Take a look at your bill.
    At the very top it shows that you are paying $ 6.00 per month for the privilege of being their customer. That 'basic charge' was $ .98 per month not too many years ago and seems to climb every year or two.

    RMP does not need additional charges from solar users because 'their are being subsidized by their neighbors'. They are already paying that basic charge like everybody else.

    RMP is trying to rip off the customers. Take a look at your bill--there are more charges for this amount, charges for that amount, part of this season, part of that season, various taxes and fees. It makes a person's head swim! Then compare it with the natural gas bill--straight and simple--gas used, therms used, cost, taxes, total.

    Our regulators should review RMP's entire tariff and charges and set them straight.

  • Back Talk Federal Way, WA
    June 14, 2017 8:47 p.m.

    totally need to support residential solar power. All people need to pay to support electrical infrastructure but as this writer points out, solar systems provide a lot of benefit also.

    Conservation and reduced need for larger power plants. That benefit should reduce the fee to a very reasonable level.

  • Spoc Ogden, UT
    June 14, 2017 8:29 p.m.

    cmsense,

    On a recent road trip, I treated the fam to dinner and fueled up the car.
    A short way down the road I found myself in dire need of a thunder mug.
    The proprietor was rightfully indignant that I had used his facilities but bought nothing.

    Average Utah residential bill is $80 for 750 kWh and the connection fee is built into that rate.
    Let's say half of that is the cost of generation; variable cost.
    The other half is fixed costs that do not change regardless of how much or how little is used.

    Now cut your usage by 75% by installing solar panels and sell enough excess back through the meter to cover the other 25%. Should your bill be zero?

    No.

    Whether you use zero electricity or not, they still have $40 in fixed costs to cover because you are relying on their wires, transformers, repair crews, generators, gas well drillers, etc. to be available on demand for your convenience to make your system complete.

    Don't want to have to pay for borrowing their system and buying nothing in return? Install a storage system of your own and go off the grid. Or, buy enough panels to cover the fixed costs and your bill will be zero.

  • Allisdair Thornbury, Vic
    June 14, 2017 6:15 p.m.

    You forgot one of the other big saving. Solar systems product most of their power from mid morning to just before sun set. That is also when the demand is highest on the grid.

    On the RMP web site they say
    "Utah customers use most of their electricity in the summer. As the area grows and more customers buy central air conditioners, demand for electricity peaks in the summer are putting a strain on the power system. This makes electricity more precious and more expensive. This program is designed to provide pricing signals to customers when electricity use is at its peak and should be reduced (between 1 and 8 p.m. on weekdays). "

    So by installing Solar you produce more electricity during Summer and during periods of Peak demand thus reducing the need for extra capacity to be built therefore saving the community and RMP money. But lets not let facts get between the company and the consumers wallet.

  • cmsense Kaysville, UT
    June 14, 2017 5:18 p.m.

    I am fine with a reasonable connection fee as long as all ratepayers have to pay it, not just solar panel owners. It should reflect the real cost to RMP for maintaining the grid. After that, the only fee should be for whatever electricity is used.

  • gee-en Salt Lake City, UT
    June 14, 2017 4:55 p.m.

    Good opinion piece, I agree with you. I too am against RMP proposed rate increases.