Monday, July 28, 2014

Salt Lake Tribune: Is A Fee For Solar Energy Users A 'SunTax' Or Fair Play? - Updated

Our take? Executives of America's multi-billion dollar electrical utilities will soon be making major changes to their business plans

There's a fascinating story in yesterday's Salt Lake Tribune, reporting on a technological battle which is likely to be brewing before the Utah Public Utility Commission this year.  Here's the tantalizing lede:
Angled to the southeast, Stan Holmes’ home above the state Capitol has a great view of City Creek Canyon but a less optimal position for solar panels — they generate most of their electricity in the morning, not during afternoon surges in demand.
But his new 378-kilowatt system still produces more power than his family can use much of the year, and sends the surplus into the grid to power the neighbors’ lights, kitchens and air conditioners.
The photovoltaic array greatly reduces their utility bills, but "that’s not what drove us," said Holmes, a retired high school history teacher. "The idea was to do everything we could to reduce our carbon footprint."
The Holmes family is among 2,700 Rocky Mountain Power customers who "net meter" — earning credit for the excess power they produce — and this number is growing rapidly as the cost of solar installations drops. Now the utility wants to charge such customers $4.65 a month to help cover the grid’s fixed costs, those associated with transmission and distribution of electricity through a vast network of wires, transformers and substations.
Check out the full Brian Maffly story here, which frames the looming debate, as individual Utah solar panel advocates square off against the Rocky Mountain Power behemoth:
By way of background, we'll link this timely Business Insider story, which doesn't paint a rosy picture for existing,(mainly tradtional)  fossil fuels-based electrical power industry:
Our take? Executives of America's multi-billion dollar electrical utilities will soon be making major changes to their business model, particularly in view of the rapidly declining costs of rooftop solar arrays.

For our own part, we can see Rocky Mountain Power's point. Why shouldn't individual home owners such as Mr Holmes, folks who are selling home-produced electical power to RMP, make at least a "token" ($60/year annual) contribution to the upkeep of RMP's existing electrical grid infrastructure upkeep?.  On the other side of the coin, why should our PUC place any economic disincentaive at all to the broad adoption of solar power generation technology, a technology which is (in our never humble opinion) the "wave of the future."

In that connection we'll also link this handy online petition, for those Gentle Readers who are (unlike your blogmeister), Not Sitting On the Fence:
Added bonus: A tantalizing new broad alternative to mere rooftop solar panels.  This is a new technology which is "coming up":

Nope, WCF lumpencitizens, the solar electricity revolution isn't limited to rooftop solar panels.

Update 7/30/14 8:00 a.m.:  The Trib carries this robust Brian Maffly morning story, reporting on the action at yesterday's PUC hearing, where "[a]bout 200 residents [gathered] outside the Salt Lake City headquarters of the Utah Public Service Commission before pouring into the Heber Wells building to address the three-member panel that regulates utilities," in protest of RMC's proposed "sun tax":.
Well? Comments anyone? Ferris?


Ray said...

Idaho as always tries to emulate it's big brother to the south and has proposed a similar fee. So far it has been turned down. Why pass a disincentive for private investment in power production. One thing I will do should this pass in Utah is un-enroll in the Blue sky program.


Carol said...

This has griped me from the get -go ... mostly cause I shoulda seen it coming

blackrulon said...

One of the factors to be considered is the ownership of RMP. it was purchased by Warren Buffett from Scottish power. Management at RMP has made several significant changes to employee compensation and retirement benefits. The changes are all geared towards improving the bottom line in order to help recoup the costs involved in the acquisition and not to helping the employee. It is similar to when a Buffet company purchased RC Wiley and eliminated the free furniture delivery service.

smaatguy said...

I'm sure RMP doesn't mind the reduced load those darned old solar panels put on their system during the summer peak AC loads....nor the infrastructure that would be needed to meet it....their customer service is the absolute worst of all utilities for anyone building something new....been there done that...been outright lied to then charged more for their incompetence. Public service my arse.

Ray said...

NEW TOPIC: Cookies for the poor, Gold and Marble for the faithful?

With all the hoopla in the media regarding the reopening of
the Ogden LDS temple, I find an article in today’s Standard Examiner particularly incongruous. In the article titled, “Ogden temple tour tent will break with tradition” a spokeswomen states, “No cookies will be served in the hospitality tent, as they have been in past temple open houses” and “The money will be better spent for wells in Africa or wheelchairs for Russia.” While I can’t argue with that statement, I can wonder if the same logic wouldn’t fit for the tens of millions of dollars spent on over the top remodeling of a house of worship vs. spending it on the poor, downtrodden, or sick. It seems as if many religions lose that emphasis which is a basic tenant of the book they claim is the foundation of their faith(s).

rudizink said...

Thanks, Ray. Your Mormon Temple comment will go up as a lead story on WCF either tomorrow or Friday. Perfect lead-in to Ogden's redesigned temple opening, methinks.

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