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 firstname.lastname@example.org.