Personal, permanent changes in a household’s energy use can be one of the most effective ways to combat climate change. By making our own transition to cleaner energy, we can encourage those around us to do the same. While personal renewable energy and energy efficient appliances began as expensive luxuries, rapid innovation has made these innovations significantly more affordable and accessible.
Our goal is to keep making renewable energy and energy efficient appliances and home insulation and design more readily available for all households and businesses. We do this by defending rooftop solar, incentivizing battery storage options, educating others on energy efficient upgrades they can make, and promoting legislation that will encourage the growth of this industry. To be successful, we work side-by-side with lawmakers to create better policy, negotiate with the utility to protect ratepayers, and empower the public to help make these changes.
COMMUNITY RENEWABLE ENERGY GOALS
HB411 The Community Renewable Energy Act passed during the 2019 legislative session. This piece of legislation creates mechanisms for cities and counties in Utah to more easily transition to renewable energy, including requirements meant to protect ratepayers. This bill was crafted as a result of the 100% net renewable goals passed in Salt Lake City, Park City, Cottonwood Heights, Moab, and Summit County.
Now that the bill has become law and over 20 townships and counties have committed to it, HEAL is engaged in the planning to implement it. This process includes negotiating with the Public Service Commission on how to create the rate structure that will allow cities to pursue their transition to renewable energy.
Throughout 2016 and 2017, HEAL was involved in the state’s major rooftop solar negotiation with Rocky Mountain Power, the solar industry, the Public Service Commission, and the governor’s office. Rocky Mountain Power proposed significant electric rate increases to rooftop solar users, based on a study resulting in claims that rooftop solar costs them too much. These proposed changes, which included reducing the export rate (the amount homeowners are paid for adding their excess solar power back into the system) and adding a demand charge and energy charge for rooftop solar, would have add so much additional cost to solar customers that Utah’s burgeoning solar industry would no longer be economically sustainable.
By rallying HEAL supporters and having a seat at the negotiating table, we were able to come to a settlement on solar. While it’s not perfect, it’s a vast improvement from what was originally proposed.
The terms of the settlement were that current solar customers can keep their rates until 2035, proposed rate changes were decreased or eliminated all together, and that Rocky Mountain Power must conduct a new solar study that takes into account more factors than before.
In the winter of 2020, this study was released and now Rocky Mountain Power wants to decrease the export credit by 84%. We are collaborated with customers, citizens, groups, and businesses to oppose this credit decrease that would destroy the residential rooftop solar market in Utah. Ultimately, the Public Service Commission still lowered by export credit rate but by significantly less than Rocky Mountain Power requested. We continue to remain engaged in this process.
RESIDENTIAL AND COMMERCIAL BATTERY STORAGE
Renewable energy skeptics like to point out that the wind doesn’t always blow and the sun doesn’t always shine. This used to be a legitimate problem, as was the question of what to do with the excess energy generated when the sun or wind is strong. Energy storage is the answer to these questions, allowing energy to be stored and then used as needed. Giving households and businesses access to battery storage will increase the reliability of electricity in buildings designed to depend on renewable energy. While battery storage is currently not feasible for wide deployment due to cost, it’s on the same trajectory that wind and solar have been: a new modality that begins with a high price point, but with rising demand and ongoing technological innovations, massive price reductions occur making battery storage a realistic and affordable strategy.
To help accelerate the adoption of battery storage, HEAL is working with state legislators to develop business and residential battery storage tax credits, along with other incentive-based programs, while at the same time educating decision makers and the utility about how battery storage can be incorporated into our electricity grid.
Using energy efficient appliances and improving insulation allows our homes and businesses to use less energy, which helps both the environment and our utility bills. Utah’s utilities often promote residential and business energy efficiency measures. We know this has been successful because, despite the massive population growth in Utah, our electricity demand has remained fairly level, meaning people are using their energy more efficiently. HEAL is continually working with the utility, policymakers, and regulators to push for more energy efficient measures in Utah while also providing the public with educational resources about how they can make their homes and businesses more energy efficient.