- Associated Press - Thursday, August 10, 2017

SALT LAKE CITY (AP) - Utah regulators have heard testimony about a proposed electricity rate change for people with home solar panels that power company officials argue they need to maintain the state’s grid but solar advocates claim would cause bills to skyrocket.

Dozens of people lined up Wednesday to speak with state regulators considering the plan from Rocky Mountain Power. It would affect people who push extra power back into the grid when it’s sunny and draw from it when their panels are not making enough electricity for their homes. The process is known as net metering.

Tax rebates and the decreasing cost of solar panels have helped the industry proliferate in sunny Utah, but solar companies said Rocky Mountain’s plan would hurt the sector by making solar power production impossible for middle class homeowners.

The Utah Public Service Commission is set to continue hearings on the issue next week, though two sides have also been working with the state to find a compromise.

Rocky Mountain power spokesman Jon Cox said solar customers are not covering their fair share of power production costs because the company now pays full retail price to buy extra power from homes with solar panels, rather than the wholesale price it pays to commercial solar farms.

“We believe that needs to change so our other customers aren’t paying above-market rates for solar when other sources are readily available,” he said, according to the Deseret News (https://bit.ly/2wxCv75 ).

But solar advocates argue the company’s plan would unfairly drive prices up for people investing in a clean source of energy.

“These rate changes, if they go into effect, would be some of the most regressive in the nation,” said Michael Shea with the group HEAL Utah.

Among those speaking in favor of solar power was professional snowboarder Forrest Shearer, who said his sport give him a close-of view of how pollution damages the outdoors.

“We must actively address climate change now,” Shearer said. “This recent proposal penalizes these efforts rather than rewards them.”

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