Fossil Fools Push to Punish Rooftop Solar
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Frequently Asked Questions
Mark D Larsen
- How does Rocky Mountain Power charge “infrastructure” costs?RMP includes such costs in its rate-per-kilowatt hour (kWh).
- What infrastructure costs are included in that rate-per-kWh?According to RMP’s CEO Rich Walje (Deseret News, 1/18/2014), the proportional breakdown per kWh is:
BREAKDOWN AMOUNT fuel (coal, natural gas): 2.375¢ power generation: 3.125¢ high voltage lines: 1.375¢ local infrastructure: 3.125¢ TOTAL per kWh: 10¢
- Do those who lower their electric bill pay less for infrastructure?Yes. If customers lower their electric bills, they pay less for infrastructure —and rightfully so. They are using less infrastructure.
- What are ways that customers can lower their electric bills?There are numerous steps customers can take to save electricity:
- upgrading their home’s insulation
- installing energy efficient windows
- purchasing Energy Star appliances
- turning down thermostats in winter
- turning up thermostats in summer
- replacing light bulbs with LEDs
- investing in home wind generators
- investing in home solar panels
- If customers reduce their electric bill with such energy saving measures, does that shift the infrastructure costs to their neighbors?No. Both those customers and their neighbors pay for only as much as they actually use. No consumer pays more because someone else now pays less.
- Do lower-income households have to pay more infrastructure costs if higher-income customers take such energy saving measures?No. We all pay for only as much infrastructure as we use, regardless of income level.
- Do solar homes require more infrastructure than non-solar homes?No. The wires and transformers that feed electricity into a solar home at night also take any excess electricity out of the home during the day. Electricity flows in both directions through such wires. The sole difference for solar homes is that their meter’s software is configured to tally the electricity flowing both into and out of the home. Nothing else. Period.
- Who pays the infrastructure costs for the electricity fed into a solar home at night?RMP sells that electricity to the solar homeowner at the full rate specified in FAQ No. 2 above, which includes infrastructure costs.
- Who pays the infrastructure costs for the excess electricity that solar homeowners put into the grid during the day?RMP sells that electricity to their neighbors at the full rate specified in FAQ No. 2 above, which includes infrastructure costs. In fact, as indicated in the breakdown, the utility is charging those neighbors for fuel (the sunshine is free!), power generation (RMP generates nothing!), high voltage lines (there are none between neighbors’ houses!), and the local wires that transfer the solar kWh to their homes.
- Are solar homeowners credited for the excess electricity put into RMP’s grid?Yes. RMP gives them kWh credits on their monthly bill equal to the excess daytime kWh that RMP sells to their neighbors, to help offset their own nighttime charges.
- What if the solar homeowner has put less kWh into the grid by day than taken from the grid at night?If the excess daytime kWh are less than the nighttime kWh, then RMP charges solar homeowners the full rate in FAQ No. 2 above for the difference on the monthly bill.
- What if the solar homeowner has put more kWh into the grid by day than taken from the grid at night?If the excess daytime kWh are greater than the nighttime kWh, the difference accrues as credits for future use on monthly bills.
- Do such credits accrue indefinitely?No. At the end of March every year, RMP confiscates any remaining credits for free, zeroes out the tally, sells the kWh to neighbors, and pockets the profit.
- If solar homeowners always accrue more excess daytime kWh credits than they use at night, are they connecting to RMP’s grid for free?No. Even if solar homeowners always produce more kWh than they use, every month they also pay a Basic Charge, a Minimum Charge, a Home Electric Lifeline Program Charge, a Municipal Energy Sales/Use Tax, and Utah Sales Tax —just like everybody else.
- Do all solar homeowners reduce their electric bills by the same amount?No. Solar arrays can vary greatly in size and capacity. A home with 4 solar panels lowers a monthly bill about the same as installing LED lighting. If homeowners can afford them and have sufficient roof space, they might install 10, 20, 30, or even 40 panels to reduce their bill even further. A proposal to levy a flat penalty surcharge on all sized arrays is the epitome of unfair.
- Does RMP reap benefits from solar homeowners that they fail to disclose to the public?Yes! Because the solar energy is free, every kWh that homeowners generate for themselves and their neighbors saves RMP the corresponding portion of these expenses:
- water usage
- fuel (coal, natural gas, oil, etc.)
- carbon taxes for using such fuels
- transporting and storing such fuels
- maintenance, repair, eventual replacements for:
- water pipes
- water pumps
- steam generators
- cooling tanks
- CO2 scrubbers
- all manner of other equipment only necessary to generate electricity with dirty fossil fuels
- Are the infrastructure costs “fixed” amounts for RMP?Not entirely. Some infrastructure costs remain constant, but the less the pieces of equipment in FAQ #16 are used, the less wear-and-tear on them, and thus the less it costs to maintain them.
- Since the infrastructure is, in fact, fully paid for as shown above, why is RMP targeting solar homeowners to pay an extra monthly fee?Rocky Mountain Power is a very active member of the Edison Electric Institute (EEI), a conglomerate of utility companies that is pushing this same agenda in various states. The EEI takes its marching orders from the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC), an alliance of right-wing, conservative activists and corporations in the fossil fuel industry funded by the Koch Brothers. They are proposing legislation and regulations throughout the nation to thwart, undermine, and slow down the development of clean, renewable alternatives to retain their dominance and profits —no matter the cost to the environment and planet.
- What would be a comparable analogy applied to EEI’s and ALEC’s fossil fuel industry?Imagine if Chevron wanted to make Chevy Volt drivers pay an extra $4.25 penalty fee to fill up at the gas station. Why? Because the company claims there are “fixed costs” for fuel pumps, pipes, storage tanks, refineries, oil rigs. Since Volt drivers don’t purchase as much gasoline as other customers, Chevron claims that they aren’t paying their “fair share” to maintain that infrastructure —hence the penalty fee. Of course, Volt drivers are not using those fuel pumps as much as other customers. Why should they pay for more than they actually use?
This is exactly what Rocky Mountain Power is trying to do by targeting solar homeowners. Should any customer pay for more than said customer actually uses? No!
- Why should non-solar customers reject RMP’s proposed surcharge on solar?First, as clearly shown above, the claim that solar shifts infrastructure costs to other customers is blatantly false, a deceitful exaggeration to divide-and-conquer consumers using “class warfare” propaganda. Consumers do not deserve to be manipulated by corporate misinformation that deliberately distorts “the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth.”Second, imposing penalty surcharges on consumers who have taken steps to reduce their electric bill is a slippery slope. Since the new smart meters can detect and report specific details about how electricity is being used in a home, RMP can also identify customers who are now paying less for infrastructure because they have installed LEDs, energy efficient appliances, and/or programmable thermostats —and not just solar panels or wind generators.Third, solar homeowners are taking the individual iniatiative, at their own expense, to help clean the air that everybody breathes. RMP should be rewarding —rather than punishing— these customers. It’s a clean job, but somebody has to do it —and RMP, EEI, and ALEC are not.