Testifying at the
Utah PSC Public Hearing
August 9, 2017

Mark D Larsen

Local Utility’s Push to Undermine Solar

Those who have read my posts about rooftop solar are aware that, for several years, Rocky Mountain Power has been waging a war against it in Utah. Organizations such as Sierra Club, Utah Clean Energy, HEAL Utah, and Utah Citizens Advocating Renewable Energy have fought long and hard in these battles, yet the utility refuses to surrender. After numerous delays, postponements, and meetings with the Public Service Commission, Rocky Mountain Power has now submitted the most nefarious proposal to date. Here are the latest rate hikes that the utility wants to impose on solar homeowners:

As you can imagine, such rate hikes are unconscionable, the kind of egregious demand that only a monopoly would try to force upon the public. Like I have done several times in the past, once again I submitted comments to the PSC’s Docket 14-035-114 to express my objections and show, with concrete data compiled after 5 years with my solar array, how Rocky Mountain Power’s claims against rooftop solar are bogus. For those interested, here is the letter I submitted:

Click to open a PDF file of my letter

The Public Service Commission announced that it would hold an open hearing on August 9, 2017 to allow citizens to voice their concerns about the proposal. I therefore decided to drive our gasmobile (ugh!) to Salt Lake City to offer testimony at the meeting. More than 160 Utahns showed up to address the commission. Although I signed the list to testify fairly early, more than two hours passed before I finally had my chance at the podium. Here is a recording of what I said:

Click to hear my testimony

I don’t know if listeners can hear it, but after concluding my remarks I was frankly surprised when I turned around and saw that most of the citizens in the room were giving me a standing ovation. I suppose that the points I raised had echoed the objections and concerns of the vast majority in attendance. Dare I hope that the commissioners also understood and agreed with those points?

That hope, it seems, would be premature. The very next afternoon it was announced that the PSC had granted yet another delay on the decision. Even worse, the purpose of the postponement was to allow Rocky Mountain Power, industry advocates, and government representatives to come up with a settlement agreement behind closed doors! Apparently we citizens only complicated matters by asserting that we are supposed to be living in a democracy —rather than an oligarchy of crony capitalists.

I am not going to hold my breath on the outcome. If the PSC were inclined to reject RMP’s rate hike on solar customers, why would it allow further “negotiations”? It very much sounds like it’s already a done deal, with just a few nits to pick in the settlement. I suspect that my testimony was little more than what Albert (Nathan Lane) in The Birdcage admonished: “Sweetie, you're wasting your gum.”

The Settlement
August 28, 2017

I can now report that they opened those closed doors and announced the settlement. You can read a summary of the details on this web page by Utah Clean Energy.

I will admit: it’s better than I would have predicted. Still, RMP will reap additional profit off of solar customers, just fewer than what the utility wanted. In my case... I am “grandfathered” in to the original rate agreement, at least until January 1, 2036. For the next 3 years, however, those who install rooftop solar in the future will only receive credit for 9 kWh from the grid at night for every 10 they put into the grid in the day. And after that... well... they are kicking the can down the road, probably because of the angry backlash Rocky Mountain Power has received from the public up to this point.

We’ll see what happens at the end of those 3 years.