Provo’s Critical Rooftop Solar Debate
An Upcoming Provo City Council Vote in October 2016 Could Doom a Growing Industry’s Future
Provo has a small but growing number of rooftop solar owners in its community. The city’s independent power company, Provo Energy, is considering several new “net metering” policies would significantly increase the cost of for rooftop solar for local customers. Net metering is the term for when solar panels generate excess power and send it back into the electricity grid.
The Proposed Solution
Provo Energy presented the conclusions of a study it commissioned several weeks ago to the City Council. It made two claims. First, that rooftop solar is costing non-solar costumers money. And, second, that the problem is urgent and must be addressed right now. To address these issues, the utility suggested several possible rate increases:
- A higher “Monthly Customer Charge” of $26.95 per month. This is a flat monthly fee that would apply to all customers both solar and non-solar.
- A “Minimum Bill Provision” of $26.95 for all customers both solar and non-solar. If a customer uses less electricity (either because they have a solar system or because they live in a small place or for whatever other reason) their bill would be hiked up to $26.95.
- A new “Retail Demand Charge” of $13.58 per month. This would apply to solar customers whose demand for power (when they’re not making enough of their own) goes above a certain threshold
- Two possible “Separate Capacity Charges” of $2.88 per month per kW of the solar system (A typical one is 5-10 kW.) This charge for solar customers would be based upon the size of the system. One proposal is $2.88 for all kW; the other would exempt the first 4 kW.
- The final proposal isn’t a new charge, but a key change in a net metering policy. It would reduce value the power that the solar customers pushes on to the grid (what’s called the feed-in tariff) to $.06 per kWh.
Each of these proposed fees would have a huge impact on Provo families considering whether to install rooftop solar. They would make a rooftop solar system thousands of dollars more expensive than Provo Energy’s current policies. Here’s how much more a typical solar system would cost a Provo family over 30 years if the following policies were adopted:
|Policy||Approximate Additional Solar Cost|
|Monthly Customer Charge||$8,000|
|Minimum Bill Provision||$7,000|
|Retail Demand Charge||$14,000|
|Separate Capacity Charge #1||$8,000|
|Separate Capacity Charge #2||$3,000|
|Reduced Feed-in Tariff||$3,000|
- There is No Urgency to Act
- As of now, there are only 162 Provo Energy Customers who have rooftop solar — out of a customer base of 37,000! That is fewer than one-half of one percent of the utilty’s customers. The council should take its time and not ask rashly.
- Factor in the Benefits of Solar
- The study commissioned by Provo Energy looked only at the cost of rooftop solar — and not its many economic benefits. It’s not fair to Provo families and businesses to only have looked at half the cost-benefit equation.
- Acting Rashly Could Harm Utah County’s Growing Solar Economy
- Utah County is becoming a hub for solar jobs. Vivint Solar employs nearly 1,000 Utah residents and built its corporate headquarters in Lehi. Other installers employ hundreds of others. Making solar in Provo expensive could threaten this vibrant local industry just as it’s taking off.
- Nevada is currently seeing the result of rashly putting new fees in place which made solar more expensive. The fees it put in place in 2015 brought solar development to a halt, eliminated jobs and provoked lawsuits. Lawmakers are quickly acting to reverse those policies, widely seen as an unnecessary over-reach.
- Don’t be the first to make a mistake!
- There are currently multiple studies being done on rooftop solar around Utah, including one by Utah’s largest utility Rocky Mountain Power. It is several years into a thorough analysis of its net metering policies involving all stakeholders, including industry.
- Given how relatively few Provo residents have solar systems, the council can easily afford to wait to see what policies those larger entities institute, instead of rashly sticking its neck out.
To send a message to Provo City Councilmembers, please click here for our handy action alert.
For more information about the issue, contact Michael Shea at HEAL Utah at email@example.com.