New PSC Solar Rate Met with Pushback
In 2017, the Public Service Commission (PSC) agreed with Rocky Mountain Power and solar advocates to reduce the then one-to-one net metering program to 90 percent of the retail value. While the RMP settlement provided better terms than Rocky Mountain Power’s original proposal, the PSC still had plans to revisit the net metering rate in 2020.
Now 2020 has come, and RMP and Vote Solar have presented their studies covering the transition period and proposed differing rates for the PSC to consider. While the PSC says that they tried to reach a compromise, most don’t think they hit the mark.
Utah’s Public Service Commission Rate Change
The new rate PSC-approved solar export rate has changed to a mere 5.969 cents/kWh in the summer and 5.639 cents/kWh in the winter. While preferred over the proposed 1.5 cents/kWh by Rocky Mountain Power, it still cuts the rate significantly.
Additionally, the implementation date has also become an issue. Many thought that they would have time after the PSC made its decision to go solar. However, the PSC caught everyone off guard when it implemented the rate changes later the same day of their decision, October 31. Solar companies scrambled to submit permits before the end of the night to no avail.
The Solar Advocate Response Plan
While the PSC claims they tried to reach a compromise that would benefit everyone, solar advocates feel this deal isn’t fair to present and future solar customers. In response to the Utah PSC decision, HEAL Utah Executive Director, Scott Williams, made the following statement,
“Deliberately deciding not to value the environmental, public health, and economic development implications associated with rooftop solar is a severe disservice to the customers the PSC is meant to protect.”
Currently, two courses of action will help Utah’s future solar customers. These include adding battery backup to solar installations and extending the transition period.
Utah and Battery Backup
In areas where net metering doesn’t help the customer reclaim excess solar energy at a fair price, a solar backup option can replace the function of net metering. Since it can customize to the needs of the homeowner, battery backup has become one of the best ways to store excess solar power. Go Solar Group carries several different levels of battery backup for this reason.
Working on Extending the Transition Period
While everyone expected a compromise, Utah’s PSC caught everyone off guard with the immediate implementation. In response, the Utah Solar Energy Association filed a reply requesting a termination extension. The PSC will have a decision on this request by November 25, 2020.
Should Utahns Still Go Solar?
Whether solar is still a viable option for non-net-metered Utahans has become a concern for many interested parties. If the motivation for adding solar to your home comes solely from the desire to save money, 2021 will not provide the same savings.
However, while the solar metering rate has decreased, the federal credit still has one year left before residential applicants can no longer benefit from it. Additionally, those who want to free themselves from utility price hikes, help the environment and reduce the uncertainty of power outages would do well to consider adding solar and battery backup to their homes.