Letter to the Editor: Utah poised to take a major step backward regarding solar energy

Stock image, St. George News

 OPINION — When it comes to developing solar and other clean, renewable energy sources, Utah ranks dead last among the western states.

Utah’s leaders prefer polluting, non-renewable fossil fuels. Seventy-six percent of Utah’s power is from coal, whereas less than one percent is from solar.

Solar energy creates many jobs, helps the economy, and improves air quality. Rooftop solar also gives people a choice about how they want to obtain their energy, and what kind of quality of life they want to leave their children.

Now Utah may be poised to take a major step backward to discourage solar energy. Utah’s monopoly utility, Rocky Mountain Power, is proposing a rate change that would punish people with solar panels.

The proposal would greatly increase monthly costs while dramatically reducing the net metering credit that is received for adding energy to the grid. This proposal is the subject of an August 9th hearing before the Utah Public Service Commission.

Nevada regulators approved a similar utility rate change that devastated Nevada’s robust solar industry. Many solar businesses were crippled and many solar jobs were lost. Nevada then learned from this self-imposed disaster, changed the rates, and its solar industry is coming back. Will Utah’s Public Service Commissioners learn from Nevada’s mistake or repeat it?

Utah should stop looking to the past and being “fossil foolish”. Utah’s leaders should join most of the civilized world in recognizing the many benefits from solar and other renewable energy sources.

Written by RICHARD SPOTTS

St. George, Utah

Letters to the Editor are not the product or opinion of St. George News and are given only light edit for technical style and formatting. The matters stated and opinions given are the responsibility of the person submitting them.

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6 Comments

  • flicker July 24, 2017 at 1:05 pm

    While I don’t know the specifics of the Rocky Mountain Power proposal, utilities are trying to get solar users to pay their share of the cost of maintaining the power grid and backup generation capability. In many instances solar customers have been basically subsidized by the rest of the users. I like solar and hope it grows in Utah as we have lots of sun, but I don’t think the other electric consumers should have to subsidize it on an ongoing basis. There are already large government tax breaks for installation of solar.

  • Caveat_Emptor July 24, 2017 at 1:39 pm

    Not to defend RMP, especially after they have exhibited disregard for their customers in Winchester Hills and surrounding communities, by incompetent management of their Middleton substation, but we need to remember their role in a solar powered community.
    Homeowners install solar panels, which have variable power output depending on sunshine. These folks are not off-grid, and in fact rely on the utility to deliver power when the sun is insufficient. At some point in the future, storage batteries will be economical, allowing excess solar generation to be stored locally for later use. In the mean time, these homeowners must remain connected to the utility infrastructure. The electric utility is expected to maintain standby generation capacity to supply these homeowners in the event of overcast/rainy days, and in the evenings.
    Net Metering is an incentive to capture excess solar power generation, postponing the need to spin up their generators.
    From a business perspective, we need to separate the cost of the electricity delivery (transmission) from the the cost of generation. In all fairness, non-solar homeowners should not be “subsidizing” the solar power households.
    The PUC needs to figure out what is fair for all customers.

    • Jacqwayne July 25, 2017 at 8:30 pm

      Ideally, the power companies should be the ones developing alternative energy, not the individual homeowners or other energy users. Of course, that would come with increased energy costs to the users since the power company must build and maintain the wind and solar installations as well as the existing coal or natural gas generators. Bottom line, the total cost if the power company constructs the alternative energy generator would far less than if all the users built their own. Also, the power company could better maintain and upgrade the systems than could each individual. The gain would be far less coal or natural gas would need to be burned, resulting in a much cleaner environment

  • ilovestgeorge July 25, 2017 at 8:51 am

    ‘Utah should stop looking to the past and being “fossil foolish”. Utah’s leaders should join most of the civilized world in recognizing the many benefits from solar and other renewable energy sources.’ Really Richard Spotts?! When the cons outweigh the pros…why would I even consider solar? Maybe you should write your next piece on the pros and cons of solar and then you’ll see why we still use fossil fuels.

  • beacon July 25, 2017 at 11:12 am

    Non-solar customers should remember that solar users are helping the utility by reducing the amount of energy the utility must produce. So, solar customers are also subsidizing non-solar customers. Many solar customers will decide to go with battery backup and go completely off grid if decisions by the commission and governor to impose higher fees become too onerous particularly after they’ve already made a very substantial investment in their homes’ solar.

  • beacon July 25, 2017 at 11:13 am

    For those who want to express their opinions on the issue:

    Contact Governor Herbert: 801-538-1000 or 800-705-2464 (toll free) or comments at https://gocentral.utah.gov/Request/Contact?response=false

    Contact the Public Service Commission:
    801-530-6716 or psc@utah.gov

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