Community Renewable Energy Bill Finds Success On Second Try

Mar 8, 2019

Credit upr.org

A bill that supports Park City, Summit County and Salt Lake City’s renewable energy goals received a second chance, after failing in its first legislative hearing. 

House Bill 411 establishes a framework for communities to work with electric utilities and the state Public Service Commission to move forward with using sustainably sourced electricity, such as from solar and wind. Park City, Summit County and Salt Lake City have reportedly been working on this sort of arrangement with Rocky Mountain Power for three years.

At HB 411’s first hearing, some members of the House Public Utilities committee expressed concern over the opt-out language in the bill, saying that customers could miss notices given by communities and Rocky Mountain Power and be surprised by a higher electricity bill. The new substitute of HB 411 creates a lengthier opt-out period, where ratepayers would have three billing cycles to decide whether they want to participate in the program, without paying a fee. John Cox from Rocky Mountain Power says the amendments address the committee’s concerns.

“Even after that whole process, you get your first bill, you get your second bill, you get your third bill—you can still opt out. There’s absolutely no penalty," Cox said. "What we envision, and what we’ve talked about with these cities as well, is a slow ramp-up to their 2030 goals, so that even after that initial three-month period, that any termination fee would be negligible for a significant period of time.”

Committee Chair Carl Albrecht had concerns about the bill’s impact to electricity rates. Salt Lake City Sustainability Program Manager Tyler Poulson says there’s an estimated 7% increase to rates, though Cox says it’s too soon to be certain. Bill sponsor Rep. Steve Handy says more information will be available once the program goes to the Public Service Commission.

“There’s still got to be lots and lots of refinement in front of the Public Service Commission before this goes forward in terms of the rates and the analysis, and then they would only roll this out in tranches," Handy said. "They’re not going to roll it out all the way. It will take a number of years, and they’ll be able to learn a lot of things about the rate impact.”

Still, Orem Republican Rep. Keven Stratton said that he would likely propose an amendment to make the bill opt-in when it goes to the House floor for discussion.

HB 411 passed out of committee on a 7 to 4 vote. It will next be heard by the full House.