Utah rejects net metering fee

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Solar supporters in Utah, U.S. were aggrieved last week following the Utah Public Service Commission’s (Utah PSC) decision to reject a proposal from utility company Rocky Mountain Power to impose a net metering fee on rooftop solar installations.

The decision follows what solar advocates in the state have labeled a concerted campaign by Rocky Mountain Power to put up barriers to solar deployment, and has been hailed as a victory for the tens of thousands of rooftop solar owners that exist in the state.

Utah PSC’s official report on its decision said: "We conclude under these circumstances the better course is for PacifiCorp and interested parties to gather and analyze the necessary data, including the load profile data that is foundational to this analysis, and present to us their results and recommendations in a future proceeding."

The decision had sat with Utah PSC since July, and Utah has since avoided becoming the third U.S. state to charge rooftop solar customers a fee for installing a PV system. Arizona and Georgia have both gone down this route, but Utah’s decision to show its support for solar has been roundly applauded by local and international advocates.

"This is a real win for customer choice and energy self-determination," Rick Gilliam, program director for DG Regulatory Policy (which worked to combat the proposal with Vote Solar) told pv magazine. "Rocky Mountain Power’s proposed solar fee was yet another example of a utility working to undermine a successful net metering program without justifying its proposal with actual costs and benefits."

Gilliam added that he applauds Utah PSC’s actions in basing its decision on a fact-based discussion on the impacts of net metering. "A huge congratulations is due to the many Utah stakeholders – local advocates, businesses, residents, members of the faith community and others – who voiced their support for rooftop solar choice in the state," he said.

There are 42 U.S. states – including Utah – that support net metering schemes, and the decision not to impose a monthly fee will directly benefit some 2,500 households in the state. While Utah is nowhere close to being a leading U.S. state for solar energy, decisions such as these are an encouraging step in the right direction.

"What a bright day for Utah’s solar future," said Sarah Wright, executive director of Utah Clean Energy. "This order protects energy choice in Utah and recognizes the potential solar has to benefit all Utahns."