Rocky Mountain Power representatives met on Tuesday with the Utah Public Service Commission to discuss the costs of alternative energy generation. The power company offers a program called net metering, which allows customers to offset electricity charges when they use their own solar panels or wind generators.
According to Paul Murphy, a Rocky Mountain Power spokesperson, about 3,000 customers are using solar panels or wind generators to produce their own electricity.
But when the sun isn’t shining or it’s not windy, those customers rely on the power company to provide electricity. The basic fixed cost for electricity is partly charged in fuel bills. So when customers are using solar power, they aren’t paying that cost in their fuel bills.
Currently, Rocky Mountain Power is monitoring about 70 customers using solar panels, to determine how much it costs to provide these homes with power when the alternative sources aren’t available.
“This will help us determine on what it actually costs to service these customers, and whether that’s being picked up by the people with the roof top solar panels, or if it’s being picked up by their neighbor,” Murphy said. “But the end result is not whether Rocky Mountain Power gets any more money. It’s whether or not, if and how much, other neighbors should be paying for their neighbors who have solar panels.”
Claire Wang is a senior at Rowland Hall, a private school in Salt Lake City. She wrote a petition to the Public Service Commission, and spoke at a press conference Tuesday requesting that the Commission consider the benefits of solar power during their analysis.
“I just want to make it clear that the young people of Utah are really invested in the issue of sustainability,” Wang said. “And I just want to make sure that Utah policy makers know that the decisions that they’ll be making are not just about current financial situations or just your monthly utility bill. It’s actually about the health of the people of Utah and the future of today’s young people.”
Before the end of the summer, four advisory meetings will be held where it will be decided how Utahns incorporate alternative energy.