Utah regulators put Rocky Mountain Power net metering proposal on hold

Source: By Krysti Shallenberger, Utility Dive • Posted: Thursday, December 15, 2016

RMP is returning to the drawing board for its net metering proposal in a move clean energy advocates applauded. Advocates earlier protested the proposal with additional fees and demand charges, both moves that have proved unpopular when utilities have tried them in other states.

RMP however, had defended its proposal, saying last month that the average Utah solar customer underpays her actual cost-of service by $400 annually.

Directed by the PSC last year, RMP performed a cost-benefit analysis of solar and claimed a cost-shift of $6.5 million annually, projecting it to grow to $78 million each year if not addressed. It’s a familiar argument among utilities who say rooftop solar users fail to pay their fair share of grid upkeep. Conversely, rooftop solar advocates say regulators and utilities don’t quantify all the benefits distributed solar provides to the grid.

The new rates would have applied to any customer seeking interconnection by December 9. Unable to come to a resolution before then, the utility pushed to suspend a decision until all parties found a satisfactory solution.

“As indicated in the Company’s Reply Comments, most objections are based on an incorrect understanding of the applicability and implementation of Schedule 135A (the net metering proposal),” the utility wrote in the request. “Nevertheless, the Company continues to be willing to work with interested stakeholders to address issues that have been raised about the net metering program.”

Once all parties come to an agreement, RMP said it would notify the Commission to resume the proceeding.

It’s not the the first time a Berkshire Hathaway Energy subsidiary is embroiled in such a debate. Nevada’s controversial net metering decision involved NV Energy, another BHE subsidiary.

Under that proposal, regulators slashed retail remuneration, increased fixed charges and excluded a grandfathering charge for existing customers. Later, the utility and solar advocates compromised on the grandfathering provision, but some damage was already done. Two leading solar installers exited the state after the decision, and other state regulators have since taken a more cautious approach to net metering debates.