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Op-ed: A hard-won victory for rooftop solar with settlement agreement finalized

Utah Solar Energy Association

The president of the Utah Solar Energy Association, Ryan Evans, recently co-authored an Op-Ed with Sarah Wright, executive director of Utah Clean Energy which was published by the Deseret News on 9/2/17.  Here is reposting of that Op-ed with a link to the Deseret News article.

Op-Ed:

Solar energy has flourished rapidly over the past five years in our state. Thanks to forward-thinking policy choices and innovative work by the solar industry, Utah is now the sixth-largest state in solar energy capacity and employs over 5,000 people.

For months now, Utah Clean Energy and the Utah Solar Energy Association have been involved in negotiations with Rocky Mountain Power and other interveners on proposed rate changes for rooftop solar customers. The proposal filed by Rocky Mountain Power last November was unacceptable. It threatened to significantly limit the option for most Utah households to go solar and would have eliminated thousands of jobs that this industry has brought to our state. We entered settlement negotiations in hopes of avoiding that outcome.

After a challenging and thorough negotiation process, Utah Clean Energy, the Utah Solar Energy Association and other official interveners signed a settlement agreement with Rocky Mountain Power. The settlement is the result of a multistakeholder, collaborative effort initiated by Gov. Gary Herbert and Dr. Laura Nelson, executive director of the Office of Energy Development (OED). Together we have brokered a compromise among Rocky Mountain Power, the solar industry and solar advocates that will preserve rooftop solar in our state for the near term. Because of the importance of this issue to our citizens and state, there is still more work ahead to ensure Utah’s long-term solar future.

Utah Clean Energy and the Utah Solar Energy Association both agreed to join the settlement because it offers a solution that protects those who have already installed solar and provides market security for both the industry and households that will choose to go solar in the next three years. There are certainly a few challenges, as any compromise would bring, about the terms of agreement. It is a complex settlement with many moving parts that we have detailed at utahcleanenergy.org.

Long story short, for the next three years residents and businesses will be able to affordably install solar, use what they produce in their own homes and be compensated separately for the energy they send to the grid, without any discriminatory charges imposed on solar customers. In the meantime, experts, including from Utah Clean Energy and the Utah Solar Energy Association, will work with the utility and regulators to fairly value rooftop solar’s contribution to our energy grid.

Leaders of our state have called for a new paradigm for rooftop solar development, and we are committed to meeting that call. Through innovation and tenacity, we will help this vital industry continue to flourish and create an energy system that fairly values the energy, economic and environmental benefits that rooftop solar resources provide. Energy technologies are rapidly changing, and this settlement and the proceedings to follow have the potential to bring Utah to the forefront of a revolutionary energy system.

Customer-owned rooftop solar provides an array of benefits for our state, including thousands of jobs, self-reliance, improved air quality and a more stable climate. Utah’s solar policy should foster and grow these benefits, not hinder them and in the process penalize those who have invested in clean, solar energy.

Moreover, this agreement offers state leaders a chance to examine broader reforms to our electricity rates. This includes greater opportunities for consumers to choose their electricity supply and create a smarter, stronger energy system that is built on innovation rather than convention. With the right commitment and smart policy, we can continue moving toward a more robust and resilient clean energy future for Utah.

Sarah Wright is the executive director of Utah Clean Energy, and Ryan Evans is the president of the Utah Solar Energy Association.

http://www.deseretnews.com/article/865687938/Op-ed-A-hard-won-victory-for-rooftop-solar-with-settlement-agreement-finalized.html