Letter: Fair solar tax?

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  • 2 bits Cottonwood Heights, UT
    Aug. 7, 2014 1:21 p.m.


    The "infrastructure" is not the stuff in your back yard. It's the Flaming Gorge Dam, or the Huntington power plant, and the towers and wires somebody had to put up to get the electricity to SLC. And the Tranformer stations, distribution stations, power poles and wires somebody had to build to get the power to your house (and every other house in the city).

    It's not the solar panel, inverter and battery you put in your back yard. It's all the stuff that brings power from the dam or the power plant to your house when you flip the switch...

  • routerguy Bountiful, UT
    Aug. 7, 2014 9:07 a.m.


    The article you read was correct: RMP does need to change the grid to accommodate net metering. The analogy I use is a grocery market that has always purchased its produce from one large producer, but then is required to buy produce in any amount from any farmer that comes to it to sell produce. Now the market is required to buy one bunch of carrots from Farmer Brown, and a couple of zucchini from Farmer Jones, and 2 watermelons from Farmer Smith. The grocery store is going to have to change its receiving and accounting systems to accommodate that requirement.

    As for charging for reducing power through solar panel use, they are not charging for the reduction of power consumption, but for the use of the grid that the solar panel uses. A solar producer uses the grid just as much as a traditional user does, it is just moving the power in and out of the grid, rather than just taking power off.

  • Noodlekaboodle Poplar Grove, UT
    Aug. 7, 2014 8:13 a.m.

    The comment I was referencing specificlly mentioned RMP needing to change the grid for a net metering operation to work. As far as I know, RMP doesn't have to change the lines for you to net meter, it's just as I described above. I realize that RMP is saying they need the money to maintain the grid, which is what you are talking about. I do find it weird though that RMP paid me money to put insulation in my house, which cut my power bill significantly in the summer, but wants to charge people for reducing their power use, in the summer, through solar panels. Sounds a bit conflicted to me....

  • routerguy Bountiful, UT
    Aug. 7, 2014 1:42 a.m.

    @ noodlekaboodle

    You misunderstand the use of the word infrastructure. In this context it is not the switches and inverters at the solar panel, but the poles and lines and transformers and switchyards, indeed the entire grid upstream, which RMP owns and maintains, that moves the excess power generated by the solar panels up to consumers who can use it immediately... and back down again from other generating stations to the solar household when the sun is not shining.

    It is that infrastructure, that grid, that requires repair and replacement. That grid is essential for the net-metering solar producer because without it, the excess power generated during the day would be lost, and the house would go powerless when the sun goes down. So solar owners who complain that they should not have to pay maintenance costs because they are generating their own power are not being honest. The excess power they generate still goes onto the grid by day, and is returned from other generating processes at night. They have used the grid even though their net power consumption is zero. They need to somehow pay for their wear and tear on the grid.

  • wrz Phoenix, AZ
    Aug. 7, 2014 12:28 a.m.

    @Open Minded Mormon:
    "How about all burger joints start charging a FEE for those NOT using their Salt, Pepper, Mustard or Ketchup?"

    You already pay for those accoutrements as a part of overhead to run the shop.

    If you brought your own salt, pepper, mustard, and ketchup instead of using the shop's and wanted a reduction in the burger price, they'd have to charge a fee to recover what they put on the table for you to use, called 'sunk costs.'

  • wrz Phoenix, AZ
    Aug. 7, 2014 12:03 a.m.

    "How can anyone think that charging extra for those who are using less power from the power company is in any way fair? It's not. It is simply a means to discourage the use of solar panels and in my opinion, is un-American."

    The power companies say the fee is to pay for infrastructure (transmission lines, etc.) that would have been a part of a full payment without solar panel usage.

    On the other hand, it would seem the cost of infrastructure would have been amortized and paid for years ago.

  • Noodlekaboodle Poplar Grove, UT
    Aug. 6, 2014 10:27 p.m.

    When you install a solar panel and use net metering instead of a battery storage system, the solar panel owner pays to wire the panels to the inverter, and pays to connect the AC current from the inverter into the meter, except for shutting off the main power for the install(which I believe RMP also makes you pay for) the power company has nothing to do with installing this type of system. The solar panel owner pays for the infrastructure, not you or the power company.

  • RedShirt USS Enterprise, UT
    Aug. 6, 2014 4:34 p.m.

    To "The Educator" yep, you did swing and miss. You may think it is silly, but that is essentially what the Net Metering is.

    If you want competition, you will have to get multiple power companies to put up power lines throughout the city. It would be great to have the competition, but we don't have it. You would also have to get rid of the State Commission that regulates the price of electricity. To add to that competition you would no longer be able to sell power to RMP generated by your solar panels for the same price that RMP is able to sell it to their customers. If you brought in competition RMP would most likely buy power for 90 cents for every dollar that RMP could sell it for. That is the other alternative. Would you be willing to get rid of the Net Metering fee to have RMP buy your power at a lower price?

    There are other companies out there to supply me with power, like Cumings, Honda, and other power generator manufacturers. The competition is there, but you probably would complain if your neighbor ran a generator 24/7.

  • The Educator South Jordan , UT
    Aug. 6, 2014 3:47 p.m.

    @ Redshirt

    "Since when is a membership fee a tax? Are you taxed for your Netflix account? What about Amazon, is it a tax to get the Prime membership? What about your city recreation center, is it a tax to get a yearly membership there? Does Costco tax you too to be a member of their clientele?"

    Swing and a miss. This is one of the silliest posts I've ever read. If I had any choice in this matter, you might have a point. Have you shopped around for your power? What companies are available?

    When I shop around for entertainment, I have Dish, Comcast, Direct, Hulu, Amazon, Redbox, and Netflix. Is this comparable to the electricity market here in Utah?

    Rest assured, Rocky Mountain Power wants it this way too.

    We should be encouraging competition, not charging it an extra fee.

  • FreedomFighter41 Provo, UT
    Aug. 6, 2014 3:24 p.m.

    I was just driving this morning through Herriman, a growing city on the south west side of the valley. While driving on Redwood Road I saw 4. Yes 4, Rocky Mountain Power workers sitting under a free in the shade. While I don't doubt sticking a pole in the ground can be hard work sometimes. But sitting on the ground in the shade relaxing while the rest of us are either working seems a little extreme, don't you think?

    @ Reddy

    How do we know that Rocky Mountain is using our dollars wisely? I think many people would be surprised that they even dare ask for another price hike when they see how much Rocky Mountain's upper level management is making. Have you seen how much?

    Raising rates should be a plan z, in other words, last resort.

    Instead, it seems like raising rates is plans a, b, and c. Will the regulation council they meet with at doughnut shops in Orem look out for the public? Has RMP cut the fat yet? If they're struggling financially why should that cost he passed onto me? The rest of us have dealt with cuts, why shouldn't they?

  • routerguy Bountiful, UT
    Aug. 6, 2014 3:24 p.m.

    I think most of you are missing the point. If you are a traditional customer, you use the grid infrastructure to receive your power, and the cost of the infrastructure maintenance is included with your power. If you use less power through conservation, you "wear out" the infrastructure less, and so you don't need to pay for what you aren't wearing out. So a traditional user should not pay any additional infrastructure fees.

    However, as a solar customer, you still use (and "wear out") the grid infrastructure to send and receive the power you produce and use, but since you are not buying power with its included maintenance fees, you are not paying for your portion of the maintenance of the grid. The proposed fee is like rent for your use of the grid. Just because you are a net zero power customer does not mean you should be able to have a free ride on the infrastructure you use, leaving traditional customers to foot the maintenance bill. If you don't want the fee, just buy a battery bank and stop using the grid, but compared to the fee, your ROI on that will be, like, forever.

  • RedShirt USS Enterprise, UT
    Aug. 6, 2014 3:11 p.m.

    To "The Real Maverick" but it isn't a tax. Where is it a tax? If it was a tax, then it would show up somewhere in the Utah tax codes, but it doesn't

    RMP is trying to stay in business, governments don't have to worry about that as much.

    Since when is a membership fee a tax? Are you taxed for your Netflix account? What about Amazon, is it a tax to get the Prime membership? What about your city recreation center, is it a tax to get a yearly membership there? Does Costco tax you too to be a member of their clientele?

    How is the fee for Net Metering different than a membership fee anywhere else?

    I am fine with them targeting people that want to use the RMP system to sell electricity using the power grid. Why should RMP absorb the cost for somebody to sell power using RMP power lines?

    The relationship between RMP and the state of Utah is a prime example of fascism. How does the most mild form of socialism look now?

  • 2 bits Cottonwood Heights, UT
    Aug. 6, 2014 3:02 p.m.

    The Educator,

    Re "Let's stop throwing money at Rocky Mountain Power"...

    I think you should do what you tell others to do...

    Stop throwing your money at Rocky Mountain Power today... and see what happens when you turn on your lights next month.

    That's the problem with you guys... you just want to stop what you see as the boogie man TODAY.. right NOW... But you don't think it through. You would blow up the bridge today... to force others to work harder at building your new bridge that's not there yet.

    Like with the highway... it's better to build the new bridge first... prove it works and can handle the load... and THEN blast the old one! Not the other way around (blast it and hope the new one works when it is eventually ready).

    Wind mills and photovoltaics are not a real solution. They are a stepping stone on the way to a real solution. We need a REAL solution first. One EVERYBODY in the USA can afford...

  • The Real Maverick Orem, UT
    Aug. 6, 2014 2:50 p.m.

    @ Redshirt

    Why is your answer to this is to tax solar panel users? It's funny the double standard here. When our government needs more money, and proposals to tax the rich at clearly sustainable levels (like the tax rate in the 90s), heaven forbid! That's socialism, class warfare, and completely unjust! But when RMP wants to target a specific people? You couldn't be happier.

    We need the right to demonstrate some consistency. That would be nice.

  • The Educator South Jordan , UT
    Aug. 6, 2014 1:27 p.m.

    Why is it that every single year Rocky Mountain cries the blues about not having enough money? They've gotta do something other than whine about money. Throwing more money at them isn't going to fix anything. Perhaps instead of whining about money Rocky Mountain should actually improve their services to become more profitable? That's what most other businesses have to do.

    Let's stop throwing money at Rocky Mountain Power.

  • RedShirt USS Enterprise, UT
    Aug. 6, 2014 1:22 p.m.

    To "Teresa Clawson" how can your connection to the grid be like everybody else's if you sell power on the grid? I don't sell power on the grid, so why should I have to pay for a connection that allows me to sell power on the grid?

    As for you bicyclist, they do pay gas taxes for every gallon of gas that they buy. If a bicyclist is able to get by without buying gas, then they will not pay any gas tax.

    If you don't want to pay the fee, then get rid of your net metering connection and stop using the RMP system to sell your solar panel's excess power. It is that simple. If you don't like the fee, don't get the connection.

  • jsf Centerville, UT
    Aug. 6, 2014 12:27 p.m.

    Can we just clear up one fact about the issue. It is not a tax. It is not charged by any governmental agency. It does not benefit any governmental agency.

    It is a service fee charged by an utility company. Specifically Rocky Mountain Power. Murray and Bountiful have their own power companies not involved.

  • OneWifeOnly San Diego, CA
    Aug. 6, 2014 12:20 p.m.

    Are people in Utah really making the decision of whether or not to go solar based on a $10 fee? I just made the decision to go solar in California and I will be paying my local utility a fee of around $10 (I think) My electric bill will be reduced from $200 per month to $0 per month + $10 fee. My break-even point (if utility charges don't go up) would be in approximately 5 years. The solar panels last for a minimum of 25 years or maybe longer. So, I'm fine with the $10 fee.

    My concern is that many years from now if everyone (business included) in California puts solar on their rooftops, than how will a $10 per month per customer possibly pay for the required maintenance to the power lines and grid? There is no doubt this fee will go up in the future.

    I like having electricity at night, so I will pay the fee.

  • Open Minded Mormon Everett, 00
    Aug. 6, 2014 11:43 a.m.

    Me thinks -- alot of this has to do with the "evil Socialist's" plan of
    having millions of home owners finally bucking up and purchasing
    CFL and LED lighting and cutting down on their own power bills.

    Those $Tens of Millions of lost dollar revenue must be made up some-how.

    So, if they can't get the State to "regulate" a rate hike for everyone
    [like they've tried twice in recent years, and been told NO!]
    they try to find a different way, and call it a FEE
    and apply it only to those they feel are a
    "threat" to their future and cutting into their business monopoly.

  • Ultra Bob Cottonwood Heights, UT
    Aug. 6, 2014 10:32 a.m.

    Among the evil conspiracies of businessmen, is the confusion of customers about just what it is that they are paying for. By separating the total price into separate pieces, a price increase is hidden and imposed on an unsuspecting customer. When the power company starts charging extra for a grid fee, did they decrease the price of the product itself?

    If any customers of a public utility are charged a grid fee then all customers should pay the fee and it should be proportional to the actual cost of that connection. All customers should then pay a lower fee for the product.

  • FreedomFighter41 Provo, UT
    Aug. 6, 2014 10:18 a.m.

    No new taxes

    How do we know that Rocky Mountain Power isn't just lying to us? How do we know that they'll put this new money to infrastructure? So what happens if they try to raise our rates again next year? This reminds me of a lil poem:

    "First they came for the Socialists, and I did not speak out--
    Because I was not a Socialist.

    Then they came for the Trade Unionists, and I did not speak out--
    Because I was not a Trade Unionist.

    Then they came for the Jews, and I did not speak out--
    Because I was not a Jew.

    Then they came for me--and there was no one left to speak for me."

    While some may feel it's okay to merely charge the solar panel people a lil extra, how do we know that we won't be next? I don't have solar panels. But I stand with them here.

    Rocky Mountain Power has enough money. Make due with whatever you have. Be responsible and make cuts. The rest of us have faced drops in benefits and salary. Why shouldn't you?

    No new taxes.

  • 2 bits Cottonwood Heights, UT
    Aug. 6, 2014 9:52 a.m.


    I was going to recommend that. But I don't know how they can divide out the cost of maintaining the infrastructure needed to get power to every house in the State... VS the cost of operating their power plants.

    IF they could do that... this would be a good solution.

    Then our bill would have 2 parts... Infrastructure costs, and power generation and distribution costs.

    Every person would get charged for the infrastructure... but you would only pay for energy generation if you use the power they generate...

  • The Real Maverick Orem, UT
    Aug. 6, 2014 9:45 a.m.

    @ Frozen

    "The question is... how does the power company currently charge for the infrastructure cost? Perhaps instead of singling out solar users it should just carve out a flat fee for everyone using the grid."

    This would solve the whole infrastructure excuse... But it doesn't eliminate the solar panel threat. Methinks this is what's it's really about. RMP is afraid of the competition.

  • Frozen Fractals Salt Lake City, UT
    Aug. 6, 2014 9:36 a.m.

    The question is... how does the power company currently charge for the infrastructure cost? Perhaps instead of singling out solar users it should just carve out a flat fee for everyone using the grid.

  • Curmudgeon Salt Lake City, UT
    Aug. 6, 2014 9:25 a.m.


    You make a good point. Having worked for a public utility long ago, I can verify that where a government-regulated and protected monopoly operates, there is plenty of fat, because they don't have fierce competition to keep them lean. They have a guaranteed rate of return, so customers have to pay the operating costs, whether bloated or not, plus a profit margin. If they are falling short, they just go to the public utilities commission for a rate hike, rather than initiating drastic cost-cutting measures. The commission is supposed to be the watchdog that makes sure they are operating efficiently, but often the relationship is too cozy for the commission to really be effective. One reason (among others) RMP is singling out solar customers is that it perceives and is trying to suppress a competitive threat from them.

  • one old man Ogden, UT
    Aug. 6, 2014 9:14 a.m.

    Behind all this are very loud echoes of the Koch Brothers and their pet organization, American Legislative Exchange Council -- ALEC.

    Now let's see, how many of our legislators are members of ALEC?

    A bunch . . . .

  • The Real Maverick Orem, UT
    Aug. 6, 2014 9:06 a.m.

    It's odd to me that conservative commentators who usually rant about taxes and fees are cheerleading this. How do we know that RMP has cut the fat yet? Have they seen where they can make cuts? Why shouldn't they become leaner and more efficient before charging customers more? How do I know that this "$10" dollar increase won't become a regular occurrence?

    RMP wants more money. They can either improve themselves or merely jack up fees on customers.

    I usually hear this when other entities, especially public education and federal government want to raise taxes or fees. So why aren't we hearing the same for RMP?

    Why is the anti-tax crowd so distrustful of public education and the Feds yet so trusting of Rocky Mtn Power?

    Is it because it truly is an attack of solar panels and these same conservative commentators see an opportunity to "stick it" to the solar panel crowd?

  • Curmudgeon Salt Lake City, UT
    Aug. 6, 2014 8:46 a.m.


    Instead of railing against taxes subsidizing solar, why not take advantage of it and install your own solar panels? Then your taxes would be subsidizing your own power plant. Or is it that you just don't like your taxes helping anyone else? If that's the case, then rail against the enormous tax subsidies to your favorite industries: coal, oil, pharma, ag, etc.

  • 2 bits Cottonwood Heights, UT
    Aug. 6, 2014 8:27 a.m.

    The problem with the bicyclist paying UTA analogy is... UTA doesn't maintain the roads. They just drive buses on them.

    You do already pay taxes that help fund traffic infrastructure (whether you drive or not) and you don't complain. Not all UDOT Funds come from gas taxes. Some money is allocated from the general fund to build and maintain roads. So you Do help fund traffic infrastructure (whether you drive a car or not). The same with the power infrastructure. If you require it be connected to your home and be in working order at all times... you have to pay for the people who do that (they work for Rocky Mountain Power).

    I see the point that it seems counter-productive to incur a charge to help maintain the infrastructure, when you were trying to minimize what you pay to the utility companies. But they still send people out to maintain the wires, the transformers, the power substations, etc.

    You may not use the power they generate (so you don't have to pay for operating the power plants), but you DO still use the power infrastructure (which IS expensive to maintain).

  • Mountanman Hayden, ID
    Aug. 6, 2014 8:21 a.m.

    ICSI program, combined with government rebates, make for a sweet deal for solar panels. I am helping you pay for your solar panels with my taxes!

  • Open Minded Mormon Everett, 00
    Aug. 6, 2014 7:52 a.m.

    How about all burger joints start charging a FEE for those NOT using their Salt, Pepper, Mustard or Ketchup?

    How about all comapnies just start charging a monthly FEE for those not coming in and using their services at all?

    This is like those stores who started charging a FEE to come in and browse and look around.
    If you BUY something, they wave the FEE.

    I've seen MAFIA axtorsion plans and methods
    [pay the FEE, and nobody gets hurt]
    that were more "fair".

  • Blue Salt Lake City, UT
    Aug. 6, 2014 6:16 a.m.

    By aggressively adopting conservation/efficiency measures I have succeeded in lowering my home's use of electricity by more than 25%. Will Rocky Mountain Power propose that I should pay an extra fee, too? How can RMP tell the difference between what I've accomplished and what my neighbor is doing with his little set of solar panels?

  • LDS Tree-Hugger Farmington, UT
    Aug. 6, 2014 5:37 a.m.

    Yes, the cyclist rides on roads and may need to take the bus or drive on bad weather days. Is it fair to charge the cyclist the same gas tax that the everyday-and-everywhere vehicle driver pays?


    But to make one small correction --

    As a cyclist,
    It would be like UTA or the State income tax charging you a $5 a month FEE -- Simply because you DO ride a bicycle and are NOT 100% dependent on riding the bus or driving.

    BTW -- As home owners,
    We already paid up front for the cost of those power lines and installations when the houses were built.
    I believe the going installation rate right now is ~ $5,000 and $20,000 depending on how far from the main line you might be.

    This $5 per month "fee" is just an addition too...

    If $5 a month is required just to maintain it --
    Charge EVERYONE that rate.

    BTW --
    While we are at it --
    If we are truly concerned about "what is fair is fair",
    and let the Free Market decide...

    Corporations use 100 times the power home owners do,
    So in all "fairness", the market dictates they be charged $500 a month "FEE" for being hooked up.

  • ECR Burke, VA
    Aug. 6, 2014 5:12 a.m.

    Just to be clear, when you ask "Is it fair to charge the cyclist the same gas tax that the everyday-and-everywhere vehicle driver pays?" Certainly, the cyclist would pay the same gas tax for the gas he/she uses (ie. when they drive their own car). And the cyclist does pay the same gas tax, indirectly, when he/she rides the bus or takes some other form of public transportation (that uses gasoline).

    But I think your point is that the cyclists should not pay the tax when they don't use the product. Just like solar panel users should not pay an EXTRA fee to the power company above and beyond what the non-solar users pay, which seems to be a penalty tax for using solar panels. Doesn't your public utilities commission have some say in this? How can anyone think that charging extra for those who are using less power from the power company is in any way fair? It's not. It is simply a means to discourage the use of solar panels and in my opinion, is un-American.