Issue #279

Push to impose extra fees on customers who install solar panels sparks outrage In Utah

Wherever he goes, Mark Richards has people coming up to ask his opinion, expressing their frustration and concern. “I’ve never seen such a hostility from residents as I have on this issue,” said Richards, partner at Woods Cross, Utah-based InterMountain Wind and Solar. “I’m amazed at the intensity I’m seeing.” The cause of all the uproar? Utah’s main utility, Rocky Mountain Power, has proposed a new fee on its residential solar customers. While solar users make up a small percentage of RMP’s customer base—only about 2,000 people—that number is growing quickly and the prospect of paying an additional $4.25 a month is not sitting well with residents and solar installers. Utah’s fight is indicative of a rapidly escalating tension: As rooftop solar becomes more and more mainstream, driven largely by middle class customers, utility companies across the country are looking to soften the blow to their business model by charging solar customers a monthly fee. On the surface, it’s a heated debate over the immediate value of solar power—who pays, who benefits, and how to make the situation equitable—but the core issue is really the increasing likelihood that distributed generation sources, like rooftop solar, will completely upend the traditional utility business model. Think Progress, 6-11-14.

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