This is an archived article that was published on sltrib.com in 2016, and information in the article may be outdated. It is provided only for personal research purposes and may not be reprinted.
The benefits of solar power are many, including the environmental attributes pointed to in a Tribune op-ed ("Rooftop solar's worth? Don't Forget value of saving Earth," Nov. 6).
Solar has grown exponentially in Utah over the past few years, and rooftop solar has played a part in that growth. But HEAL Utah's suggestion that the way to realize Utah's vast solar potential and its benefits is to continue to require customers to subsidize private rooftop solar panels.
The vast majority of solar energy in Utah now comes from large-scale solar farms. More than 20 facilities are operating now in Southern Utah, which together produce eight times the amount of solar energy as all rooftop systems combined. This is energy from the sun. It feeds the grid that serves all customers, and it is cost effective.
HEAL Utah points to the discussion that will take place in coming months about the proper value to place on rooftop solar and how much rooftop solar customers should receive for excess power they put back on the grid through net metering.
Rocky Mountain Power is currently crediting rooftop solar customers 8.5 to 14.5 cents for each kilowatt hour they produce. At the same time the energy company is purchasing solar power from large scale solar farms for about 4 cents per kilowatt hour.
This week Rocky Mountain Power asked the Public Service Commission to change the rates for future rooftop solar customers. The commission ordered a study which found a typical Utah rooftop solar customer is being subsidized $400 each year by customers who rent or cannot afford or do not want solar panels. This subsidy is costing other customers $6.5 million each year and if the system isn't changed it will cost non-solar customers $667 million over the next 20 years.
Rocky Mountain Power recognizes the investment that rooftop solar owners have made with their systems and is not asking for rates to change for current customers. However, the energy company is asking the Utah Public Service Commission to end the substantial subsidies for future customers.
A future average net metering customer will still save about $40 (or 35 percent) on his or her bill and still receive about twice as much for excess power as it would cost to get the same energy from solar farms. The solar market will continue to grow because the price of solar panels has plummeted and rooftop solar customers are still getting hefty federal and state tax credits.
Rocky Mountain Power is committed to renewable energy and is the second largest rate-regulated owner of wind power in the U.S. No. 1 if you include our parent company. We are already in the transition to using more renewable energy and have pledged to do even more. If cleaner energy is the goal, then it makes a lot more sense to invest in more solar and wind at the lowest prices possible.
Paul Murphy is Rocky Mountain Power external communications director.