Solar groups and utility made a deal because ‘in Utah, we do things differently’
Utah’s recent net metering settlement, negotiated by solar industry leaders and the state’s largest electric utility, is a shining example of using dialogue to solve seemingly intractable problems, according to Gov. Gary Herbert.
“Differing opinions is not necessarily a bad thing,” Herbert said at a Wednesday afternoon news conference scheduled to celebrate the settlement, which was ratified by state regulators late last week. “We have a lot of issues in the state of Utah where we hope we could come together and have a frank, open conversation with civility. That’s what happened here.”
The settlement will allow the state’s largest provider of electricity, Rocky Mountain Power, to slightly reduce the value of the credits it provides to customers whose rooftop solar panels generate more electricity than they use. This “transition” credit rate will remain in place while the utility, solar industry leaders and other parties continue to study the costs and benefits of residential generation in order to determine how much the utility ought to compensate these customers for their excess power.
While the settlement is complex and multifaceted, Wednesday’s speakers primarily focused on the process that brought it about, rather than on the details of the agreement.
Ryan Evans, president of the Utah Solar Energy Association, said industry leaders, the utility, environmental advocates and other parties spent nine months and hundreds of hours to come to an agreement on the issue.
When talks began, Rocky Mountain Power argued that net metering forced its customers who did not have rooftop solar panels to subsidize the electrical bills of those who did. But solar industry representatives and other groups opposed the company’s proposal to restructure solar customers’ electric bills. The resulting rate shock, they said, had the potential to end rooftop solar installations in Utah altogether.