David Bennett: Join the study to preserve solar power in Utah

(Francisco Kjolseth | Tribune file photo) Artspace Solar Gardens at 850 South 400 West in Salt Lake City, which opened in August 2013, is the first net zero mixed-use energy building with onsite solar production in the state of Utah.

Like everyone else in Park City, I recently received a confusing letter from Rocky Mountain Power about a study for rooftop solar customers. If you are a Rocky Mountain Power customer with rooftop solar please keep reading.

At first, it seemed like an uninteresting legal document destined for the recycling bin, but I have solar on my roof so I decided to look into the study mentioned in the letter.

Every solar customer should join this study.

The study is actually being run by a group called Vote Solar. Vote Solar is a non-profit that helps states and utilities improve their policies and regulations to encourage more families and businesses to go solar.

Vote Solar’s study is using current customer information to help make the case for fair rates for solar customers in the future. The Utah Public Service Commission, the government entity that decides electric rates, will be considering changes to solar rates that will impact new solar customers in 2021. With your help, Vote Solar will be able to make a strong case that customers with solar provide real value to the electric system.

It is practically guaranteed that Rocky Mountain Power will ask for lower rates than what solar customers currently earn for the excess energy they send back to the grid. Low rates don’t just harm families and businesses with solar power. They will result in fewer Utah families and businesses investing in solar and our 6,000 local solar jobs will be at risk, our grid will be even dirtier, our local air quality will degrade and our contribution to the climate crisis will increase.

When I installed my first solar panels on my home back in 2010, it was about more than a simple return on investment calculation. I looked at the world around me and saw some things I didn’t like: a warming planet, worse air quality and a disengaged public. Going solar meant I was taking action into my own hands, doing more to address the climate crisis and protect the snow-covered mountains I love to ski and the clean air that carries me along Park City’s beautiful running trails. I’ve since taken my commitment a few steps further, adding panels to completely meet my electricity needs, including powering my electric car.

Fair rates will make rooftop solar more attainable for Utah families that want to take action to slow climate change, contribute to our local solar economy, and invest in clean air. No matter your reason for wanting to go solar, the system will only work with fair compensation for the value solar customers provide to everyone.

That’s why, as one of Utah’s more than 30,000 solar customers, I’m participating in the study. Participation is easy and your personal information will be protected. Your participation will help Vote Solar understand how Utah solar customers use energy and provide benefits to the grid. Then, Vote Solar will make the case to the Public Utilities Commission that solar customers deserve fair compensation for all that we add to a clean, local, resilient and affordable energy system in Utah.

If you or anyone you know has solar panels on their home or business in Utah please tell them about this important study and ask them to participate. Together, we can help make Utah a cleaner, healthier and more resilient place to live.

David Bennett

David Bennett is a jail and criminal justice consultant from Park City. He is also a member of UCARE — Utah Citizens Advocating for Renewal Energy.