Rocky Mountain Power Goes For The Knockout…

This has been a particularly lousy week…

I started it off by trying to accept the reality that America chose a flamboyant orange science denier for the highest office in the land.  If President elect Donald Trump actually does the things he said he would do in his campaign, he will cause great harm to the environment and seriously undermine the safety of future generations.

Couldn’t get much worse than that, right?


Later in the week I discovered Rocky Mountain Power (RMP) is proposing new fees on Utah rooftop solar users.  The proposed fees are so outrageous that there’s only one way to look at them: as an attempt to kill the Utah solar industry.

According to Heal Utah, RMP is asking for a $15 a month user charge along with $9.02 per kilowatt for peak period demand.  The details surrounding these fees are a bit murky but I certainly don’t like the looks of where this is headed.

Why is RMP making such drastic changes to a solar fee structure that was already working just fine?

Well, there’s a lot of hoopla about “fairness” in the rate structure for Utah net-metered homes.

RMP pushes the guise that they need to protect non-solar users from paying the grid maintenance fees their solar neighbors are supposedly avoiding.  This is a nonsensical argument full of half-truths and bias.

As I mentioned in regards to Provo’s solar uproar last month, I’m fine with paying my fair share to support the grid.  But I should only pay on a scale relative to the amount of power I pull from the grid.  The more I pull, the more I pay.

Truth is, RMP could solve the rate payer fairness issue by implementing a simple line item grid maintenance fee of $5 on solar users monthly utility bill. I would be fine with that.

But they don’t want to do that, and here’s why…

Some quick research tells you RMP is owned by a Pacificorp, which is a subsidiary of Berkshire Hathaway, a publicly traded company on the NYSE.

Years ago, RMP supported the expansion of rooftop solar in Utah.  Maybe they thought the rooftop solar trend wouldn’t amount to much and they could continue raking in monopolistic profits ’til the cows came home.

Much to their surprise, rooftop solar in Utah has exploded…

As it currently stands there are about 16,000 rooftop solar systems in our state-up from 500 in 2011.  That’s explosive growth and it has RMP sweating bullets.

You see, if the solar trend keeps playing out as it has the past five years, Pacificorp will likely start seeing significant pressure on their business model.  After all, if you’re collecting free power from the sun you aren’t supplying revenue and the resulting profits to Pacificorp.

And that’s where the truth lies- investor profits.  If investors see earnings weakening, they sell stock.

As you may know, Berkshire Hathaway is owned by Warren Buffett- a legendary investor and one of the richest men in the world.  Be assured, Buffett is no dummy. He sees the trends in rooftop solar and the threat it presents to Pacificorp; as do his investors.

It’s important to note that Warren Buffett is not against solar.  In fact, he’s made billions in investments in solar and renewable energy the past ten years. For that I commend him.

But don’t be mislead- Buffett isn’t investing in solar for the benefit of society.  Those huge investments have to pay off… to Berkshire Hathaway.  He doesn’t care one iota about an individual home owners right to produce their own energy.  To Buffett, rooftop solar is competition to the monopoly that is RMP.

And that’s where we get to the real heart of the rooftop solar issue…  

Individual homeowners have a right to produce their own power on their own property.   Nowhere does it say in the constitution that I must buy my energy from the utility. For decades I have bought my power from various utilities, not because I wanted to, but because I had to.  I had no other choice.  There was no competition.

But now, with technological advancements and economies of scale in solar energy, it is possible.  People are quickly exercising their right to produce their own power; safely, securely, and efficiently.

Folks, RMP’s new solar fee proposal is a blatant attempt to squash that right and eliminate the competition.

If we as a society truly want to exercise our rights to freedom, and make the Earth and air we breathe cleaner at the same time, we have to stand up for solar.  Contact your local representative and make your voice heard.

Tell them to support solar.  Support freedom. Support our childrens’ future.

To a clean energy future…



2 Comments Add yours

  1. Mark Shah says:

    Justin, well said. I think it will take more than just us home solar users to influence policy. How can we encourage those that haven’t yet invested in home solar to care enough about this issue to also push back against these fee changes?


    1. jsvietor says:

      Great question Mark. It’s a tough one to answer as it involves digging into consumer behavior, which is really not my area of expertise. But consider this: maybe the most important aspect to promote to those who haven’t yet invested in rooftop solar is the fact that it promotes competition with the utility monopoly. I hate to say it but as much as you and I care about how solar energy leads to a cleaner environment, I am willing to bet a large percentage of the population simply doesn’t care about that aspect. But what can get a lot of people on board is the fact rooftop solar is a way to promote competition in the local energy market. And as you know, competition leads to lower prices, which everybody can get on board with. If more people knew about this aspect, maybe they’d be more willing to stand up and support rooftop solar? What are your thoughts?


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