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Power company proposes new charge on homes with solar panels

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SALT LAKE CITY -- Jim French moved to Utah eight years ago. He loved his new home but hated the air.

“We were concerned about helping the air quality in the valley,” French of Salt Lake City said.

Five years ago he decided to help out by getting solar panels.

“We wanted to help the environment and specifically we wanted to help the air shed issues the air quality issues in the valley,” French said.

But solar panel owners like French feel like they’re getting burned by a new $4.25 charge that Rocky Mountain Power wants to put on those who make their own power.

“It may not sound like a lot but you have to realize that these families have chosen to invest thousands of their hard-earned dollars into doing the right thing to make their own electricity,” said Matt Pecenza, Policy Director of HEAL Utah.

Pacenza said solar panel owners already invest thousands of dollars. The new charge would increase the time it takes homeowners to see their investment in solar panels.

“While it might not sound like a lot of money if you add that up over the lifetime of the solar panels we’re told it could add an additional 18 months or more to the time it takes your investment to pay back,” Pacenza said.

In Utah, Rocky Mountain Power has over 800,000 customers and only 2,500 people create their own energy -- whether that be from wind or solar. Now, those people who have solar panels are worried this charge will make people more hesitant from getting solar panels in the future.

“People will say, ‘look this time it’s $4.25 what will it be next time?’” French said.

Pacenza said the power company is making the wrong decision at the wrong time.

“We need more folks to do this, not discouraging those who are,” Pacenza said.

But Rocky Mountain Power officials say since there is a mix of fixed costs and energy use it’s not fair for the rest of the public to pay for the added costs put on by those who use solar panels.

“We’re just looking for a way to make sure prices are fair for all of our customers and it’s not a penalty it’s for fairness we don’t believe someone in Rose Park should be paying for someone who has solar panels in park city,” said Paul Murphy, Rocky Mountain Power Spokesperson.
The Public Service Commission will have public hearings on the requests later in April and May.

40 comments

    • Tyler

      If you are on the grid would be the only way they could charge you. storing your own power is expensive. do all you idiots without solar panels want your power bill to go up? This is a poorly done article and needs to explain why it costs the power company.

  • scott f

    they dont give you full value for the extra energy you make..now they want more??..sell it to your neighbors and get off the grid all together.. china will own them soo enough

  • Diane

    Because Rocky Mountain Power is a monopoly they can charge anyone what ever they want. Even those who don’t use the power. It’s not the power companies job to make sure prices are fair for all. They provide a product and should charge what the market deems fair. They have no business charging someone for something they don’t use.

  • against you

    if they dont use your power what the heck gives you the right to charge them stay out of there homes they dont need you

  • Solar panel owner

    We have solar panels. They are getting free power from us every day. Yes they give us “credits” but they also wipe out those credits once a year. This is ridiculous that they would charge me for giving them free energy.

  • aaron mizell

    It makes me want to get the off grid package when I do go solar so that Rocky mtn. Power doesn’t get to use any of my power. Greed is what this is about, not fairness.

  • befuddled

    I challenge Rocky Mountain Power to publicly define what they claim are the added costs “put on” by those who use solar panels.

    Paul Murphy: kindly show me how someone in Rose Park will be paying for someone in “park city” who has solar panels.

  • scott oberg

    I think we need to have a huge public hearing on this whole thing. We the people need to be heard more and more instead of swallowing everything they shove at us.

  • fay ingersoll

    Its Rediculous people need to start standing up to corporate pigs and the goverment! We the people have the voice we the people need to start useing it again. When the people fear there government its tyranny, when the government fears the people its freedom.

    Come together and fight for our rights as americans!
    Im tired of being hearded like sheep tired of believing everything they shove down are throats! We need to unite and take back our rights.

  • K Poling

    I agree with most of these comments. This is the most rediculous thing I’ve heard. If the public service commision allows this then we all know who’s back pocket they’re in.

  • Clint

    This really iritates me. Especially because RM Power was going door to door in my neighborhood yesterday asking people to “buy” wind power to reduce the amount of coal they use to provide energy. Now they have customers reducing their own footprint and power draw and they are charging them?!

  • Moses Hinton

    Hey when the sun don’t shine are they willing to be in the cold or hot dark. $4.50 is like a insurance policy. The Tree Huggers want it both ways.

    • tie

      The solution would seem to change the way customers are billed then, not penalize people for using alternative power solutions.

    • Ivan

      You don’t understand how this works. They are already connected to rocky mountain’s power grid and pay for electricity just like you do but when the sun is shining their house produces excess power which RM should be giving them full credit for. Instead RM shorts them on the credit and now has the nerve to ask for additional fees.

    • Bob

      No Moses, these folks are hooked into the grid just like everyone else. When the sun doesn’t shine and they don’t generate their own electricity they use (and pay) Mountain Power just like everybody else.

    • victor

      You’re an idiot! First off, everybody all the time wants it both ways. Do think for one minute, that people on solar power don’t know what a dark day is. They are getting off the grid and are showing YOU they don;t have a need for power like you do! In fact, I bet this is exactly something you would do. Insurance my butt!

  • Matt

    The comment in the story about the fee possibly discouraging others from solar power, that is pretty much the point. Do you really think that a power company wants people producing their own power? They will do whatever they can to discourage it so that they can secure their customer base. It would be like Comcast or DirecTV telling their customers to reduce or cancel their TV service in place of free online programming. Why do you think that many online TV apps now require you to have a service subscriber login. It is so that you are required to pay for the service to even be able to benefit from the “free” app. It is all about money.

  • Really sad

    I find it interesting that he picked Park City as his comparison. I have neighbors near Ogden with solar panels but that does not envoi ethe image of rich people so of course they are not going to mention that. Blatently greed! Rocky Mountain Power is also not offering incentives to put panels on either.

    • befuddled

      If Paul Murphy is a “spokesperson” for Rocky Mountain Power, they should be ashamed to have him on their payroll.
      A comment like”people in Rose Park shouldn’t have to pay for someone in Park City who has solar panels” is neither accurate nor appreciated.

  • Bruce Chapman

    What about all the free electricity being added into the power company grid by the panels during peak times!

  • Earl Lewis

    Everyone that is voicing their outrage here should plan to attend whatever public hearings are held with the PSC when this is discussed. I’m going to be there.

  • PaulMurphysLaw

    I’m so glad everyone is getting in on the conversation. Rocky Mountain Power is actually trying to lower the bills for everyone by spreading the cost of being on the grid for all our customers. We also do encourage people to use less energy to help save money and electricity. The Utah Public Service Commission will ultimately decide whether the fee is fair to all customers. BTW I grew up in Rose Park an I have learned is that the majority of solar panel customers are in higher priced neighborhoods on the east bench and Park City and very few have homes in Rose Park or anywhere else on the west side. I would also love to get a Chevy Volt but I don’t expect my neighbors to pay the extra costs to have one. You can learn more at this blog:https://www.rockymountainpower.net/blog

    • camille

      I read the blog but have to admit that I do not see how this isn’t an additional penalty for those providing some of their own power. If I understand it correctly, you are asking for a $3 increase for all residences (including those using alternate forms of energy) in addition to the $4.25. If the end goal is fairness for all and to not have anyone subsidizing someone else, why not increase the customer fee more for everyone to accurately reflect the fixed costs? This could also result in a lower charge for actual energy usage, since money for fixed costs wouldn’t have to come from those charges.

    • Yanquetino

      Shame on you, Paul Murphy! So now Rocky Mountain Power has stooped so low as to use the “class warfare” card???

      You know very well that if someone installs solar panels, it simply lowers that person’s bill. It has NO affect on anybody else’s bill. We ALL pay for as much as we actually USE –and rightfully so.

      You might as well ask: “Why should residents of Grantsville be paying for customers in Rose Park who have put better insulation in their ceilings and walls, installed energy efficient windows and appliances, and replaced incandescent light bulbs with LEDs?”

      Solar homeowners have simply reduced their electricity bill with yet another type of solution. Period.

      The only difference is that better windows, lights, and appliances do not put kWh back into Rocky Mountain Power’s grid, which you then confiscate for FREE from solar homeowners and SELL to other customers at the full rate –even though those kWh cost you zero, zip, zilch to produce.

      If you are so concerned about the classes, why don’t you turn around and donate those free kWh to poorer customers without charging them?

  • Bruce Chapman

    The fee is gross and unjust and a Greedy Lying Ignorant power company’s deterrent from much needed progress! Solar Panels give a lot of free electricity to the power company!

  • Bruce Chapman

    And my Nissan Leaf all electric car is only $209.00 per month! And i’m getting me some SOLAR PANELS!!!!!!!

  • feelin snarky

    You can thank guv huntsman for making this possible by getting rid of the consumer energy board.

  • Andrew G

    If you let the corporations make the decision then they are going to try to preserve profits and they don’t care about what is good for the people or the planet. Most of the time they are all for the “free market”, but when the free market doesn’t benefit them they whine. It’s time for the people to have some power (pun intended).

  • Yanquetino

    Several commenters have asked to see actual data on this issue. I am happy to be the guinea pig and share my solar array’s stats. They reveal that Rocky Mountain Power’s claims are completely bogus.

    In a Deseret News interview published on January 18, 2014, RMP’s CEO Rich Walje let slip the proportional amounts for infrastructure costs in a typical monthly bill. He also specified that RMP’s average rate is 11.2¢ per kWh. Using those figures, simple math shows the breakdown for my own net metering.

    RMP charges my neighbors these amounts for the excess 777 kWh per month that I put into the grid by day:

    $27 – Fuel (for FREE sunshine!)
    $21 – Power generation (RMP generates nothing!)
    $12 – High voltage lines (there are NONE between our homes!)
    $27 – Local infrastructure (neighbors already PAY for wires from my home to theirs)
    ——-
    $87 – TOTAL that RMP earns selling my excess kWh to my neighbors.

    Here is the breakdown for the 668 kWh per month that I pull from the grid at night:

    $23 – Fuel
    $18 – Power generation
    $10 – High voltage lines
    $23 – Local infrastructure
    ——-
    $75 – TOTAL for the kWh I use at night.

    RMP thus earns $12 more per month than I owe for my electricity at night, INCLUDING the infrastructure costs.

    Moreover, RMP sells my excess kWh at the full rate that includes fuel, power generation, and high voltage lines –none of which applies, and is pure gravy. Yet RMP wants to punish me with a surcharge for “donating” my clean, zero-emission energy to their grid? Unconscionable!

  • Adam

    I too just installed a 7.75 Kw system. In receiving my first bill from RMP since being on Solar, I generated over 800 Kwh of which I used 300 Kwh. So, like many of my fellow solar owners, I freely gave more than enough power to RMP, that I’ll likely never use. I am sure that RMP made more than $4.25 in the additional 500 Kwh that I “sold” to them.
    Layoff RMP! You are making enough money from us solar customers.

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