Mayor John Curtis (D) intends to veto a new solar surcharge passed in a 4-3 decision by the Provo, Utah, Municipal Council on October 4, according to a report on the local newscast KSL-TV broadcast on Tuesday.
Under the terms of the new ordinance, customer-generators of Provo Power would pay a monthly fee of $3 per kilowatt (kW), based on the size of their solar arrays, as well as a charge for interconnection to the local grid. The average Provo rooftop solar array is 6.15 kilowatts, the city said.
“I’ve spent many hours contemplating my response since the council’s decision to add a charge to solar use,” the Mayor wrote on his official blog on October 10.” It’s not often I use the veto power but the future of solar in Provo is an important issue and deserves discussion.
“For many reasons,” Curtis said, “I feel our residents and members of the community should further the dialogue on sustainability, the health of the city’s grid, and how to balance competing interests. We need to talk more about consumption versus fixed charges and how this all impacts the general fund.”
Customer advocates agree. They say that the new fee “sticks a knife in the back” of clean energy,” but the council had characterized the as a matter of fairness for other customers that would preserve the city’s fiscal health, according to an October 7 report by the Desert News Utah.
Indeed, advocates say customers who have existing solar energy systems — about 160 homes — as well as those considering making the investment will now be faced with a much less affordable energy option.
“Those 167 families who already have systems in place, it is a real bummer for them,” Matt Pacenza, executive director of HEAL Utah, a watchdog organization that champions clean energy, told the Deseret News. “They made a decision to make this investment based on a series of assumptions, and now that has changed.”
“George Stewart is all about fairness, and the current system was not fair to the rest of the users,” commented George Stewart, a City Council member who voted for the new surcharge. “We felt they had been subsidized long enough,” he said.
The new solar capacity charge would add an estimated $18 to $20 per month to Provo solar owners’ bills, according to HEAL Utah, and will cost users thousands over the life of their system.
“Over the coming months, I hope to have an opportunity with the council to focus my efforts on bringing stakeholders to the table that include residents who have invested in solar, community leaders, industry experts, sustainability advocates, and economists,” the Mayor said in his blog, noting, “Our aim will be to have a more educated public and to make decisions around consensus through collaboration.
“We want to be clear; Provo City supports investments in solar energy. We are united in the desire to encourage and support our residents to help us build a community of renewable and diverse energy choices.”