SALT LAKE CITY — Rooftop solar advocates warn that a Utah state commission's ruling could mark the end of the industry in the state.
The three-member Public Service Commission will deliberate for two weeks starting Tuesday on competing proposals to cut compensation rates for rooftop solar customers. Rocky Mountain Power, Utah's largest utility company, is seeking an 84% reduction in compensation rates while solar advocates are pressuring for an increase.
The utility company wants to reduce compensation rates from 9.2 cents per kilowatt-hour to 1.5 cents per kilowatt-hour to avoid forcing customers that don't pay for rooftop solar to fill in financial gaps, the Deseret News reported.
Utah Clean Energy and its advocates are requesting that a rate of 12 cents per kilowatt-hour be implemented to keep the industry afloat. The advocates are also asking for the rate to be fixed for 20 years.
Rocky Mountain Power argues it can buy or generate this solar power at far lower prices than Clean Energy's proposal or compared to current rates.
Currently, 40,000 homes and businesses are pumping rooftop-generated power into the grid. That represents 2% of the utility’s customers, indicating there are opportunities for growth in an industry that employs about 7,000 people in the state, Bowman told the Salt Lake Tribune.
“If Rocky Mountain Power’s proposal is approved, it sends a strong signal to prospective solar customers that their energy exported to the grid is essentially worthless,” she said. “It would take up to 25 years, potentially longer, to pay back the upfront investment in solar panels. And that means many solar customers will never realize any savings over the life of their panels.”