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Who Owes Whom?

By City Weekly Readers
Posted // February 26,2014 -

I wish to respond to Jeff Hymas of Rocky Mountain Power [“Energy Error,” Letters, Feb. 6, City Weekly] concerning charging those of us who have placed solar panels on our homes.

Our household has been a customer of RMP for nearly 32 years. We recently installed solar panels as part of the effort to clean up our terrible winter air. Our solar panels provide RMP with clean energy when it needs it the most, during peak summertime hours. With enough of us connected to the grid, we save RMP the expense of building another power plant. We do pay a monthly service fee even when we generate more power than we use. To say that we do not contribute our fair share for maintenance is laughable.

This attempt to gouge more money from us is a page right out of the Enron playbook. Explain to me how Germany manages to pay homeowners more than the going rate for their surplus solar power while RMP cannot?

Ric Lee

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Posted // February 26,2014 at 12:43 Ric, I appreciate your feedback and welcome the opportunity to respond. While Rocky Mountain Power and our customers have done much to support the growth of solar energy in Utah (Utah Solar Incentive Program and Blue Sky program) and recognize the benefits it provides, installing solar panels does little, if anything, to help improve Utah's air quality. The main contributors to Utah's poor air quality during the winter are vehicle emissions and other area sources, not power plant emissions. Also, the contribution of solar to meeting peak electricity use is vastly overstated. Peak use by our customers generally occurs in the late afternoon and continues into the early evening hours, long after solar production has dropped off. As for Germany, that country's heavy subsidization of solar power has been a disaster, resulting in sky high energy prices, decaying infrastructure and no significant reduction in emissions. While Rocky Mountain Power supports renewable energy, and is in fact one of the nation's leading utility owners of wind resources, we have an obligation to ensure our prices and policies are fair to all customers. Even the state's appointed consumer advocate has expressed concerns about net metering customers being subsidized in part by other customers, including lower-income households. Our proposed $4. 25 fee is a reasonable solution to ensure that everyone is paying their fair share and that costs aren't being shifted to other customers. Of course, it will be up to the Utah Public Service Commission to make a final determination.