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Got solar? New study of Utah power customers will help determine compensation

Got solar? New study of Utah power customers will help determine compensation

(Laura Seitz, KSL, File)


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SALT LAKE CITY — Utah Clean Energy and Vote Solar are hoping at least 1,000 Utah residents and businesses with solar panels will agree to take part in a voluntary study that may help inform the Public Service Commission when it decides how much users are compensated for excess energy generation.

Letters went out this month to solar customers from Rocky Mountain Power describing the Vote Solar study, what information is required and how to participate in the voluntary effort.

Users can also opt out at any time.

Next year, the Public Service Commission will be considering rates of compensation for solar customers who don’t use all the energy they generate and deliver it to the grid. The rates would apply to new customer generators beginning in 2021 and also affect existing customer generators beginning in 2032 or 2035.

Rocky Mountain Power needs customers’ permission to share information about energy generation, energy consumption and the location of the system. In the letter, the utility company said it will not disclose any customers’ identifying information without the property owner’s knowledge and express consent.

Kate Bowman, solar program coordinator with Utah Clean Energy, said the survey will take energy data from households and businesses for 2019. That information will then be analyzed and presented to the Utah Public Service Commission when it takes up the rate compensation case.

Last year, she said, Rocky Mountain Power submitted its own study design for its analysis to the commission, but advocates don’t think it is broad enough.

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Bowman said it involves 45 users from 30,000 solar panel systems in the state.

“It is a pretty small sample,” she said. “We’re looking at this to be an opportunity to get a much broader set of data.”

Customers who bought solar panels before November 2017 are grandfathered in the previous net metering system at a higher rate of compensation.

Residential customers get compensated 9.2 cents for each kilowatt-hour they send to the electrical grid. Customers pay anywhere from 8.8 cents to 14 cents depending on their usage and time of year.

Bowman said advocates are afraid that the new rate compensation for solar panels might end up being lower and deter the adoption of solar in Utah.

“We are expecting that the utility will come in with a value of solar that is a lot lower than what we have now,” Bowman said. “We really need to make the case for the value of solar in Utah and make sure customers are compensated fairly.”

More information about the solar survey can be found on Rocky Mountain Power’s website.

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