Preserving the Environment

How Utah Stopped a Power Company’s Ridiculous Bid to Tax the Sun

September 16, 2014
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How Utah Stopped a Power Company’s Ridiculous Bid to Tax the Sun
Utility provider Rocky Mountain Power tried to propose a monthly fee on homeowners who have solar panels. Melanie Conner/Getty Images
It's a victory for the state's clean energy future.

When it comes to embracing the power of the sun, some companies can act like they’re living under a cloud.

That’s what happened in Utah, when utility provider Rocky Mountain Power (RMP) tried to propose a $4.65 monthly fee on homeowners who have solar panels on their roofs to help cover the “fixed” costs of maintaining the power system.

The Deseret News pointed out that Utah could have become the third state — after Arizona and Georgia — to levy this “sun tax” on solar users, even though their homes use less power and even put excess power into to the grid with the energy generated by their panels. The fee would have impacted 2,500 households in the state.

Thankfully, common sense prevailed. After thousands of angry comments and a six-hour public hearing, the Utah Public Service Commission (the state’s utility regulator) rejected RMP’s bid, saying that the power company failed to prove why the fee was reasonable or justified.

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“What a bright day for Utah’s future,” says Sarah Wright, executive director of Utah Clean Energy. “This order protects energy choice in Utah, and recognizes the potential solar has to benefit all Utahns.”

As the Deseret News reports, it’s a win for residents such as Jim French, who invested $21,000 (an amount that was significantly reduced after federal and state tax credits and rebates from RMP) to install solar panels on his Salt Lake City home.

“When we moved to Utah, we became aware that the great majority of power is generated from coal-fired power plants,” French tells the publication. “I wanted to do what little I could to contribute to clean energy.”

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However, the fight is definitely not over yet. The AP reports that the utility hopes the commission will revisit the issue. Additionally, everyone else in the state will see their rates go up. On the same day of the commission’s ruling in favor of solar, they also approved a 1.9 percent increase on all residential customers — upping power bills by an average of $1.76 a month. The price hike, will net the utility an astounding $35 million in the next year.

If anything, it’s likely that this increased fee will make more people want to make the switch to renewable energy. With America trying to ditch its reliance on fossil fuels, the forecast for solar looks sunny.

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