SALT LAKE CITY — Utah leaders, consumer advocates, the solar industry and clean energy boosters are praising the détente achieved with a net metering compromise that preserves status quo rates for thousands of rooftop solar customers in the state.
The compromise, endorsed last Friday by the Public Service Commission, emerged after tense negotiations among the players arguing over the benefits and costs rooftop solar is having in Utah in the wake of breakneck adoption.
A ceremonial signing event at the state Capitol on Wednesday celebrated the compromise, which was lauded as an effort that epitomizes the "Utah way."
"We have not let perfect become the enemy of good," said Utah Gov. Gary Herbert, acknowledging the give-and-take inherent in the agreement.
"This is not an easy issue," he said.
Under the proposal, current net-metering customers will be grandfathered into the existing system through Dec. 31, 2035, and credits for energy generated from rooftop solar will remain unaltered.
The same fee structure would apply to Rocky Mountain Power customers who have submitted a completed interconnection application to the utility company before the net metering "cap date" — Nov. 15.
Rooftop solar energy generators that come onto the utility system after that date would fall under the umbrella of a transition period to Dec. 31, 2032, and would receive "export credit" compensation of 9.2 cents per kilowatt-hour or 9.4 cents an hour if lawmakers fail to extend the $1,600 state tax credit through 2020.
That transition period would last until a new rate is determined in a mandatory export case that will come before the commission no later than three years after Rocky Mountain Power initiates the action.
"This compromise is a significant win for industry, the economy and the state of Utah," said Ryan Evans from Utah Solar Energy Association.
Utah Clean Energy's Brandy Smith said the compromise begins the process for more negotiations on the benefits and costs of solar energy produced by rooftop generators.
"This is our chance to get it right in Utah."
Jon Cox, vice president of government relations with Rocky Mountain Power, said similar efforts are playing out across the country with mixed results and mixed progress.
This year, he noted, there have been 65 proposals to solve solar net metering rate disputes among utility companies, advocacy organizations and the solar industry. In 2016, there were 73.
"It is certainly not perfect, but it is a step in the right direction," he said.