Brian Maffly – The Salt Lake Tribune
Five years ago Jim French spent $25,000 to install 14 solar panels on the roof of his Salt Lake City home — half facing south and half facing west. More recently he added another four on the roof’s west side to capture more of the sun’s rays in the late afternoon — a time when electricity use spikes as utility customers crank up air conditioners and other appliances.
French’s excess power is piped back into the electrical grid through net-metering equipment, effectively reducing Utah’s reliance on polluting fossil fuels, he says.
If Rocky Mountain Power (RMP) gets its way, French will see $4.25 tacked onto his monthly bill — money the utility says net-metered customers should pay to cover their share of the transmission system’s fixed costs.
“We want to produce clean power from the sun because it won’t pollute our air, unlike much of the power generated by our coal-oriented electricity provider, Rocky Mountain Power,” French said Thursday in his Yalecrest backyard. at a press event opposing the new charge
“We hope that our utility will listen to the growing number of Utahns who want less dirty power produced by burning coal and more clean power from renewable sources such as solar.”
The Utah Public Service Commission is now weighing the utility’s request for the “facilities charge” on net metered customers as part of a contentious rate adjustment. Currently about 2,700 RMP customers have solar arrays, but the number is growing by 30 percent a year thanks to improved and cheaper technologies and state and federal tax credits that can cut the cost by 40 to 50 percent.