Rocky Mountain Power Proposal Would End Solar in Utah
Activists, Solar Employees, and Impacted Individuals Step Up to Protect the Industry
Salt Lake City, UT — Today, activist and professional skier Caroline Gleich was joined by local solar employees and impacted Utahns to oppose Rocky Mountain Power’s (RMP) proposal to lower the rooftop solar expert credit by 84 percent, effectively killing off the industry in Utah. You can view the related press event here (passcode: 4r.e7NJ9).
Rooftop solar connections declined almost 22% in Utah from 2018 to 2019 after RMP and the Public Service Commission (PSC) dismantled net-metering in 2017. When individuals produce their own energy, a fair export credit rating system — aka net-metering — encourages investment in solar panels so that the excess energy is passed back to the grid for public consumption. When this happens, an individual’s meter actually runs in reverse. For utilities like RMP, which gets 60% of its power from coal plants, receiving excess solar energy means the utility can cut the carbon pollution that exacerbates the climate crisis and poisons our air and water.
“I’ve lived in Utah for almost 20 years and throughout that time I’ve seen some wild weather events. But the last two years have brought a new level of intensity. Throughout the West and the rest of the world, climate change is exacerbating extreme weather,” said Caroline Gleich, Professional Skier whose livelihood depends on stable climates. “We have 10 years to transform our energy system away from fossil fuels to avoid the most damaging effects of climate change. At a time when our utility providers should be doing everything they can to incentivize renewable energy, our Utah electricity provider is proposing a rate change that will annihilate Utah’s rooftop solar industry. It’s up to us to fight this and make sure future rooftop solar customers have fair rates.”
In 2015, Nevada’s Governor and PUC increased the fixed charge for net-metered solar customers and gradually lowered the compensation for excess energy. By late 2015, the state lost more than 2,600 jobs with solar companies pulling out of the state in search of willing customers. Nevada Legislature ultimately reinstated net-metering two years later.
“If the PSC does not recognize the real and tangible factors that the RMP solar study failed to include regarding the true monetary value of a locally produced kilowatt-hour, such as distribution costs and avoided capacity, then there will be serious collateral damage.” said Tom Mills, Policy Advocate for Utah-based solar company Creative Energies. “The most damage will be to Utahns who want to invest in solar energy to reduce their carbon footprint while reducing their electric bill – it simply won’t make economic sense for them anymore. It will also hinder Utah’s pathway to resiliency, security, innovation, and the ability to be self-reliant during events like power outages, while eliminating 6,000 good-paying jobs in the process during historical job losses.”
“As friends and family joined the solar revolution, my wife and I debated installing solar panels on our Salt Lake City home. We were finally pushed to install them when Rocky Mountain Power changed their net metering policy 3 years ago,” said Glen Lamson, rooftop solar owner and Salt Lake City resident. “The loss of that 1 for 1 credit was the final straw. We had to move fast to get that financial incentive, otherwise we may not have been able to get solar. Rooftop solar owners give excess power back to the grid, making it more resilient. As a thank you for that, the utility is penalizing its customers and preventing others from installing solar. With an even more punitive export credit, there will be no financial reason for anyone in Utah to go solar.”
About the Sierra Club: The Sierra Club is America’s largest and most influential grassroots environmental organization, with more than 3.5 million members and supporters. In addition to protecting every person’s right to get outdoors and access the healing power of nature, the Sierra Club works to promote clean energy, safeguard the health of our communities, protect wildlife, and preserve our remaining wild places through grassroots activism, public education, lobbying, and legal action. For more information, visit www.sierraclub.org.
About the Healthy Environment Alliance of Utah: The Healthy Environment Alliance of Utah (HEAL Utah) has been an environmental advocacy organization, watchdog, and strategic influencer in Utah since 1999. By empowering grassroots advocates, using science-based solutions, and developing common-sense policy, HEAL has a track record of tackling some of the biggest threats to Utah’s environment and public health — and succeeding. The organization focuses on clean air, energy and climate, and radioactive waste. HEAL uses well-researched legislative, regulatory, and individual responsibility approaches to create tangible change, and then utilizes grassroots action to make it happen. www.healutah.org.