Power company seeks rate increase for rooftop solar users

ST. GEORGE, Utah (AP) — State utility regulators are poised to consider raising rates for people who have rooftop solar panels and sell their extra electricity back to the power company, a proposal that solar-panel companies say could deal a blow to their burgeoning industry.

Rocky Mountain Power announced last November that it wanted to start charging rooftop solar customers for installation and nearly triple their monthly customer charges and peak-time usage, the Spectrum reported (http://bit.ly/2vI62h2).

Rocky Mountain Power officials argue that the typical rooftop solar customer is not paying their fair share for their service because they are not being charged equitably, while still being paid the full retail price for the solar power they produce. A study by the researchers noted that in some cases, the power company would pay three times more for extra energy from rooftop solar customers than from large-scale facilities.

“Rocky Mountain Power supports renewable resources as long as an appropriate rate is in place that allows customers to use private generation without adversely affecting other residential customers,” said Gary Hoogeveen, Rocky Mountain Power Senior Vice-President and Chief Commercial Officer.

An analysis by Utah Clean Energy, a Salt Lake City-area think-tank, found that rooftop solar customers save the company’s $1.3 million annually without the need for new generation facilities and through lower transmission costs. They also do not think the power company should ignore the “green” aspect of the solar industry.

Utility officials, solar advocates and the Utah Office of Consumer Service have been working together to find a middle ground, but as of Friday, did not have any details about a potential compromise.

Shaun Alldredge, co-owner of St. George-based Legend Solar, predicts that if the proposed higher rates take effect, it could deal a heavy blow to the industry. He cited a similar move in Nevada that crushed their rooftop solar industry.

“We’re still hoping for a positive outcome. We still think that’s something that can happen,” he said.

The Utah Public Service Commission is planning two hearings on the issue to get public input and consider the proposal.

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