Utah PSC sets solar fee hearings

Utah regulators have scheduled hearings 28 July through 1 August to decide whether to approve Rocky Mountain Power’s controversial proposal to assess a $4.25 monthly fee on its growing number of solar energy customers.

The utility’s website states that the proposed charge for residential net metering “would help pay some of the fixed costs of supplying and receiving electricity.”

Utah Public Service Commission spokesman Gary Widerburg tells Recharge that the body has 240 days to rule on the request – a deadline of late August.

While solar (and all renewables) is a minor player in sun-drenched Utah’s energy mix, it is becoming more popular as the federal government incentivizes its use with tax credits.

Rocky Mountain Power, a unit of PacifiCorp, which is controlled by billionaire Warren Buffett’s Berkshire Hathaway holding company, has also been encouraging solar generation through installation rebates.

Utah’s legislature has enacted a 20% renewable energy goal for 2025 based on retail electricity sales. While there are no interim targets, utilities operating there must file progress reports on 1 January 2015, 2020 and 2024.

Caught between having to meet state renewables mandates and the growing disruptive threat that distributed generation presents to their longstanding business models, utilities have sought to impose service and maintenance fees to generate revenue streams from solar energy.

Environmental and renewables groups are in opposition to Rocky Mountain Power’s proposed fee and are expected to testify in the upcoming hearings.