Important Information from HEAL Utah

The battle for rooftop solar is coming down to the wire, with just a few months until a final decision on whether Rocky Mountain Power can sharply raise rates on new solar customers.

So much has been happening, as HEAL and our allies fight to make sure that affordable clean energy is an option for Utah families. I want to show you what your support for HEAL has accomplished. (If you need a quick recap on how Rocky Mountain Power is trying to stifle rooftop solar growth, click here to view this Salt Lake Tribune article.)  

Before we deep dive though, if you want to register your support for solar, please take a moment, click here, and let the governor and Public Service Commission know you want them to keep rooftop solar rates affordable.

 

Here’s one key way HEAL has been fighting for solar: We have put together a detailed study to convince the Public Service Commission (the state body which oversees Rocky Mountain Power) about the merits of rooftop solar. We are proud to unveil the final product!  

 

The report was authored by expert staff in Cambridge, Mass. at Synapse Energy Economics, a research & consulting firm. Thanks to your generosity, HEAL was able to bring to the solar fight not just the decades of knowledge of these utility experts, but also a local attorney to help us frame the argument for the PSC.

You can review the complete study by clicking here, but we wanted to share its main points.

Let’s take a ride into some energy policy. 

 

1. Rocky Mountain Power's analysis neglects short and long-term benefits of rooftop solar. 

 

In the utility's study to the Public Service Commission to justify rate increases on rooftop solar, the computer model they usedoes not include many of the benefits rooftop solar provides. As a result, Rocky Mountain Power's study midleadingly shows the costs of rooftop solar far outweigh the benefits. 

 

2. With more rooftop solar there is less need to build new fossil fuel plants! 

 

Rocky Mountain Power's Integrated Resource Planning process (a big study done every 2 years projecting power supply and demand) shows that if there is enough rooftop solar, there is no need to build more power plants. In sum, the utility itself found, but failed to mention when it came to determining solar’s benefits, that widespread adoption of rooftop solar can avoid 455 MW of new electricity demand --enough to power thousands of homes.

3.  If Rocky Mountain Power analyzed coal plants the way it does rooftop solar, the facilties would fail its own “cost/benefit” test! 

 

It is no secret that the price of solar panels has dropped remarkably the last few years. What the utility does not want you to know is renewables are now cheaper than coal and their own modeling shows it.

 

4. Rooftop solar avoids harmful air emissions 

 

At first glance, you are probably saying “duh.” But, quantifying the cost of harmful emissions from coal plants is pretty hard. Luckily HEAL's experts determined solar can help avoid almost $100 million in health-related costs over the next 20 years. 

 

5.  Rooftop solar can avoid environmental compliance costs

 

A coal plant is a simple machine. For decades, a boiler burns the coal to produce steam, that steam spins a generator to create electricity, and a smokestack is where all the emissions get pumped out of. If you look at a coal plant today there is a lot more equipment, almost all of it to clean up the emissions from burning coal. That equipment is not cheap. If you have enough rooftop solar to reduce the need to generate coal power, ratepayers do not need to pay as much compliance equipment. 

 

If you want more on our findings, you can look at the study here. Or, just let me know if you have any questions! 

However, this study won’t make nearly as big of a difference without your voice to help support it. So please take a moment to send a message to the governor’s office and Public Service Commission and let them know you want to see all the benefits of solar counted. Click here to be taken to our action alert where you can send a pre-written message or (and much more effective) write your own message. 

 

Onward and upward! 

 

Michael Shea | Senior Policy Associate

Selling a Solar Home

What happens if you decide to move and you have solar installed on your home? Will the solar panels attract buyers or scare them off?

You don’t need to live in your home for 20 years to make your solar investment a smart decision. Installing photovoltaic solar (PV solar) on your home won’t stop you from selling. In fact, it can be a big advantage.

Residential Rooftop Solar Helps Attract Home Buyers

When you make the decision to sell your home, having a real estate listing that stands out among the crowd always helps attract more home buyers and offers some home hunters the exact feature they are pursuing.

A solar array is an impressive feature for any home. What’s not to like about creating your own electricity and paying little to nothing to the utility company? If you had a choice of picking one of 2 identical homes and the only difference was one came without the never ending, always increasing, utility bill which would you chose?

Your photovoltaic system can also help you close a sale more quickly. According to the Department of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy, a division of the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE), homes with rooftop solar systems often sell twice as fast as similar homes without photovoltaic power.

Rooftop Solar Can Increase Your Homes Value

Who doesn’t want to sell their home as fast as possible while commanding the highest price possible? With added value of a solar array, you shouldn’t have an issue getting top market value for your property.

And, actually, you may find that your solar-powered home sells at a higher price.

Research from the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory shows that home buyers pay more for homes with pv solar systems. The average home is valued by an estimated $15,000 more than comparable, grid-powered homes.

If at the time of selling your home you still owe a portion of your rooftop solar costs, your home sale price can offset the amount and possibly create a profit. Not to mention all the savings accrued by avoiding the never-ending rate increases you experience with Rocky Mountain Power.

Why not Lease a Rooftop Solar Array

Homeowners who purchase their photovoltaic solar systems reap the benefits of selling their home faster and for a higher price while at the same time experiencing the lowest cost of energy possible. However, if you decide to lease your PV solar system, you may find the experience a little different.

As with any type of lease agreement, you will make payments to essentially rent the equipment. With a solar lease this can be 20 or more years. In Utah, the majority of us that obtain solar for our homes have purchased the system as part of a smart solar investment strategy. Why rent energy from the traditional utility company like Rocky Mountain Power, or from a solar utility company like Solar City or Vivint Solar when you can own your solar energy production and take advantage of all the many benefits?

Financing a home solar array is now affordable for any home owner looking to own their energy. Thanks to the wide range of options like lender financing, Home Equity Line of Credit, cashing money out of a 401k and a home re-fi, most everyone is able to install photovoltaic solar for $0 upfront. At Genuine Solar we are able to match your average monthly bill with Rocky Mountain Power to your new energy cost of residential solar.

Investing in a photovoltaic solar system just makes better economic sense than leasing or renting your energy from any other source. If you would like to learn more, Genuine Solar has the ability to answer your questions and offer a full understanding of solar as your new energy system. With extensive experience in the solar industry we are proud to serve homeowners throughout Utah, Nevada, Idaho, Colorado and Wyoming. Contact us today to learn more about installing a rooftop solar array at your home or business.

5 SMART Things to do when getting solar

Before you install solar, make sure you do the following:

1. Get multiple quotes on a system.

With the recent Utah solar boom that started in 2015, systems are routinely being sold at $4.50 to $5 per watt which makes the average 6kW residential solar system $27,000 to $30,000 before tax credits are considered. Recently, there are a few good solar companies out there installing quality solar systems at or slightly below $3.80 per watt and that's including finance costs.

The troubling factor in all this is that many homeowners are not being educated on solar and instead are confronted with pushy sales guys that use every trick in the trade to convince you to move forward based solely on a monthly payment. When it comes to financing, if all you are concerned about is a monthly payment then you will miss some important factors. To understand your true return on investment consider not just the total cost, but all the many details of equipment quality, real life production estimates and the value of net metering with the Utility Company.

With so many companies out there in the Utah market, it is wise to obtain around 3 separate bids and consider what each company offers that justifies the pricing they present. Online solar calculators can be misleading as they do not understand your specific home situation  and you will experience a flood of calls from companies they have sold your information to. 

At Genuine Solar, our first goal is to offer you a solid education on solar and answer any and all questions you have about the who, what, when, where, why and sometimes how.

2. Check out the companies reputation and quality.

You may have noticed an increasing number of neighbors installing solar. Because of this recent "boom", many of the roughly 100 solar companies in Utah have just recently started installing residential solar and do not have many years of experience. There are great resources out there showing your peers reviews on most solar companies such as Solarreviews.com, Facebook, and Yelp.

The owners of Genuine Solar have over 8 years experience marketing roof top solar from the east coast all the way out into the middle of the ocean on the small island of Guam. Coming home to Utah, we searched long and hard to find the most reputable installation partner around with 10 years of installing experience. This partnership allows us to ensure that our quality never falls short. As we climb on your roof, secure panels to your home, and tie into your electrical service we know our team will make the best choices backed with 10 years of a craftsmanship warranty and 25 years of labor warranties to match all your solar products.

Always look into the quality of equipment that is being offered. You can always check reviews on those devices and ensure that your system will last well beyond 25 years. Check out these links to look into the solar panel and the inverter you're being offered.

You should have warranties that cover the products for no less than 25 years to achieve the best ROI (Return on Investment). At Genuine Solar, not only do our products meet the highest quality standards, but they are warrantied by the manufacturers for 25 years and then backed up with a 25 year "true labor warranty" to help you avoid any extra costs for years to come. 

3. Understand how solar will save you money.

Many people looking into solar have obtained erroneous information from friends who either don't have solar or by those who do have solar yet have never fully understood its great benefits.

Ask the companies offering you estimates how they are arriving at their proposed production. We have seen it time and time again when helping out our customers with other bids that many companies are over-estimating what the solar will provide. Companies will then reassure the customer that they are backed by a production guarantee. What they fail to mention is that the system can drop as much as 10% in production, or more, before they will step up to that guarantee.

In Utah, we have snow that sits on the panels during parts of the year, dirt that settles on the panels, trees, roof vents/pipes, roof direction, roof pitch, and many other factors that can cause energy loss. All these items should have been considered in the proposal you are being offered.

At Genuine Solar, we use a state of the art software that has been backed by NREL that allows us to build your home in a 3D model taking into account all the previously mentioned variables ensuring our estimates are 98% accurate before even coming to your home. Check it out for yourself aurorasolar.com.

4. Don't wait for battery technology to emerge

Consumers are hearing a lot about batteries coming from great companies like Tesla who are putting out attractive and sleek home batteries with great advertising. But just like their electric cars are about double the price of a cost effective Toyota Camry, their batteries are fairly expensive and don't do as much as one would hope at this point.

There is little doubt that Lead Acid Batteries, much like the one in your car, are still far more cost effective than most of the current lithium solar batteries. The reality is back-up battery technology is still a couple years away from being real advantageous to the home owner. With so much happening in the electric vehicle market, we can only expect battery technology to increase in efficiency exponentially over the next couple years along with lower prices that make them a viable option.

Until batteries reach their best potential both in efficiency and cost, we have the benefit of "Net Metering". There are many states like Utah where the Utility Company will have the consumer sign a "Net Energy Metering Agreement" that allows for a 1 to 1 exchange of energy. This means that for every unit of energy, a kilowatt hour (kWh), that your solar system produces and is not used at the moment of production, the Utility Company will allow you to send that energy to the grid for use by other homes and businesses drawing energy. This will be tracked by a Net Meter installed on your home that will tell both you and the Utility how much energy you send to the grid and then take back. Any extra energy produced in a month that is not used will then roll forward to the next month. This is a huge advantage for solar and makes the need for batteries unnecessary at this point as the grid is essentially acting as the battery for you.

With Net Metering still open to consumers and with the Federal Tax Credit, as well as the State Tax Credit, it makes right now the time to get solar. Waiting could mean you miss out on these benefits.

5. Stop waiting for solar to get cheaper.

A big misconception for those waiting on buying solar is that it is going to continually get cheaper as all technology does.

With the current tax credits available to the consumer that help reduce cost, consider that 30% of the cost is subsidized by the Federal Investment Tax Credit and then another 25% (Up to $2,000) is subsidized by the Utah State tax credit as well. That's usually 40% of the cost covered by those incentives that over the next few years will be going away. Without those, that means the cost of solar has to drop by at least 40% just to be equally advantageous. Not to mention certain aspects of solar such as the copper wire, electrical components, labor, and racking materials have all been around for a very long time and are not subject to price drops due to advancements in solar technology.

Solar equipment prices have no doubt dropped since 2008 and earlier. But in 2017 with solar having gained such a large footprint throughout the world it has allowed for solar equipment production on a mass scale by hundreds of suppliers utilizing major production facilities. Competition has brought solar equipment prices down to a level where the foreseeable future of residential solar will see almost unnoticeable drops in cost. Not to mention much of the focus in residential renewable power is being directed toward batteries so that homes can become truly independent.

We all desire our homes to be as comfortable as possible and this has left us with an energy debt. We can either endlessly pay the Utility Company or with the advent of solar we can take control and put an end to that debt. Our goal at Genuine Solar is to properly educate homeowners on the benefits of solar. We provide customized information that is specific to your home and family. Contact us for all your solar needs and together let's make sure solar is the right decision for you.

THE PROBLEM WITh ROCKY MOUNTAIN POWER

In Utah we are in the middle of an interesting situation as residential rooftop solar and commercial solar are experiencing a boom in kW's installed, new jobs created, and new businesses taking advantage of a market that is finally experiencing some competition. This competition has sparked the current monopolistic utility, Rocky Mountain Power, to continually fight back in the form of new rates, fees, and demand charges that would essentially kill solar as it exists currently.

In this battle a lot of information is being thrown around that is confusing and hard to verify. Rocky Mountain Power is suggesting solar users do not pay their fare share for use of the grid citing grid upgrades needed to allow energy to flow back and forth to a solar home. A regular home only receives energy where as a solar home both receives and distributes energy. Solar homes, as well as articles from sources like Brookings, see solar as a net benefit to the grid. Every utility experiences heavy usage during peak times of the day and historically have to build extra infrastructure, paid for in taxes and higher rates, to offset those heavy usage times. States like California have even built specific "Peaker Plants" just to help avoid rolling power outages. These are costs that any utility company will always have while needing to maintain an ever growing and ever evolving grid system that has been around for roughly 100 years. Both residential and commercial solar projects feed the grid power at peak times throughout the year and helps the utility avoid creating more infrastructure that would traditionally be needed for growing populations. As an added benefit, home and business owners are consuming the cost of the solar projects leaving a small level of upgrading to do by the utility to allow for that type of growth.

What needs attention in this issue is the fact that Rocky Mountain Power is a business looking out for their investors and their profit margins. On top of that, they are a monopoly that is guaranteed profit because they have no real competition as well as being able to pass any types of expenses and loss directly onto rate payers like you and I. This is common throughout our country when it comes to the traditional Utility Company.

We need a grid that is progressive and able to advance in a way that is advantageous for the end user. This can mean many things with the available technology currently in the market place and could lead to smart micro-grids that allow homeowners to be their very own utility company that shares and sells energy back and forth to their neighbors and community. A grid that doesn't go out through half of a city just because a tree fell and knocked out a single line across town.

We have seen fights like this throughout history and even if it feels like this time it doesn't apply directly to you, it inevitably will at some point in your future. Make your voice heard and let Utah legislators and the Public Service Commission know you demand competition and progress by writing the PSC at psc@utah.gov.