Last month two Utah-based environmental groups, Heal Utah and UCARE, asked Rowland Hall to host a press conference addressing new concerns surrounding Utah homeowners’ rights and usage of affordable solar energy.
Rowland Hall seemed a natural choice for the event due to the school’s commitment to an environmentally responsible culture in 2008 and installation of solar panels in 2010. Additionally, this year’s valedictorian Claire Wang is an intern at Utah Clean Energy, and recently submitted a petition to the Public Service Commission requesting its attention to the benefits of solar energy to all the citizens of Utah. Almost 200 Rowland Hall students signed the petition.
At issue is Rocky Mountain Power’s plan to impose a monthly surcharge on its customers who collect energy from the sun on solar panels and store it on the utility company’s grid.
"Solar power produces clean electricity on sunny days and it actually reduces strain on the grid,” Claire said. “It also makes expensive investments in new power plants less necessary."
The press conference was covered by Fox 13 News, KSL TV News, the Salt Lake Tribune, the Desert News, and the Ogden Examiner. Heal Utah arranged the speakers for the conference which, along with Claire, included our Sustainability Coordinator Jensen Morgan, UCARE board member Bob Nohavec, and Rowland Hall parent Senator Luz Escamilla (D).
"From cleaner skies to more local jobs to increased consumer choice, solar energy is a boon to Utah," Sen. Escamilla said.
The controversy over charging customers a fee has intensified in the sun-intensive southwestern United States, which has seen a rapid growth in roof-mounted photovoltaic arrays. Utility companies in states such as Utah and Arizona are now saying that these customers should be responsible for maintaining their share of the power grid. Rocky Mountain Power has filed with the Public Service Commission to impose a monthly surcharge on customers who trade their excess power for credits and draw power from the grid on non-sunny days.
Claire’s petition argued that the proposed fee would discourage customers from investing in solar power. Last year Arizona saw a 40 percent reduction in new installations when the state imposed a surcharge similar to the one being proposed in Utah.
“When I saw the statistics in Arizona, I realized this is an issue that impacts everyone,” Claire said. “We can make a difference. It is up to my generation to stand up and make the choice.”