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.
Rooftop solar has been a rollercoaster here in Utah over the last few years, with HEAL locked into the front seat of the ride. Throughout 2016 and 2017, we were involved in the state’s major rooftop solar negotiation with Rocky Mountain Power (RMP), the solar industry, the Public Service Commission (PSC), and the governor’s office. RMP proposed three significant electric rate increases to rooftop solar users, based on an incomprehensive study they did and claims that rooftop solar costs them too much. These proposed changes, which included reducing the export rate (the amount homeowners are paid for adding solar power to the system) and adding a demand charge and energy charge, would have hurt solar customers to the point that Utah’s solar industry would no longer be sustainable, as happened in Nevada.
We entered the negotiations in order to defend the future of solar in Utah. By rallying our supporters, who sent postcards and action alerts and showed up in the hundreds to public meetings on this issue, 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 settlement dictates that current solar customers can keep their rates until 2035, that the proposed rate changes were decreased or eliminated all together, and that RMP must conduct a new solar study that takes into account many more factors than before. We expect this study will be released in the spring of 2019, at which time we will rise to the occasion once again to do all we can to ensure rooftop solar can survive and thrive in Utah.
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 extra energy when the sun or wind is strong. Energy storage, such as high-performing batteries, is the answer to these questions, allowing excess energy to be stored and then used as needed. Giving households and businesses access to battery storage will increase renewable energy’s reliability. While battery storage is currently inaccessible for many due to cost barriers, it’s on the same trajectory that wind and solar have been: as a new technology it begins with a high price point, but with rising demand, increasing technological innovations, and the market, massive price reductions occur making the technology a realistic appliance for many.
We anticipate, based on market projections, that battery storage is indeed on this pathway but we think that we can help accelerate this price drop to increase the adoption of battery storage. We will be pushing a business and residential battery storage tax credit in the 2019 session while educating decision makers and the utility about how battery storage can help our electricity grid. Our ultimate goal is to make battery storage affordable and accessible to as many people as possible so that they can make personal transitions to renewable energy that are more comprehensive.
Using energy efficient appliances and improving insulation allows our homes and businesses to use less energy, which helps both our environment and utility bills! Despite the war waged on rooftop solar, 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. Through public education campaigns and a utility program called Watt Smart, Rocky Mountain Power has encouraged homes and commercial buildings to upgrade to energy efficient appliances. We are 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.