Solar power surcharge brings heated debate
MANTI—Roughly 45 minutes of heated debate ensued over last month’s establishment of a surcharge on solar production capacity in the city of Manti.
Manti is home to four rooftop solar owners: Jim and Shannon Miller, Edward and Sherril England, David and Crystal Hall and Katelon Grant. Shannon Miller, the Englands and Grant presented their opposition to the surcharge before Manti City Council last Wednesday night. They said the surcharge only tells one side of the story.
In October of this year, the Utah Municipal Power Agency (UMPA) conducted a study to determine the suggested rate surcharge for solar users who remain on the city power grid. The initial recommendation for Manti by UMPA was 3.25 dollars per unit of kilowatt capacity per month. To maintain consistency with surrounding municipalities, the council chose to reduce the monthly charge to 3 dollars, a charge adopted by other communities in Sanpete. The motion was unanimously accepted on Oct. 5.
Solar owners in Manti, with Edward England as their spokesperson, expressed their dissatisfaction with the rate charge on their net-metering systems. UMPA’s study, Edward England said, was only a rate review to preserve revenue in the wake of solar power’s rise in popularity in the energy industry.
“The study conducted by UMPA fails to discuss the benefits of solar in Manti,” he said. The point he proposed, however, was not necessarily to overturn the charge, but to allow more study on both sides of the issue to take place before making a decision.
“We are not here to argue,” he said as he began his presentation, but civil discussion turned warmer as both sides remained unyielding in their positions.
“We were surprised that they seemed to have their minds made up,” Miller said. “We just wish there could be more discussion.”
More discussion on the same issue has happened in other municipalities in the state of Utah. Miller’s group specifically cited two cities, Provo and Kaysville, whose councils had heavily debated the problem.
Mayor Korry Soper led the defense of the council’s decision, stating that the council does not believe the UMPA study ignores the benefits of solar energy in the city. “We have absolutely nothing against solar power,” Soper said. “It’s a big part of the future of our country.”
He said the main idea behind the surcharge is to capture maintenance and labor costs perhaps lost by solar energy production in the net-metering system. Rooftop solar energy production essentially feeds into the net meter, pushing the dial in the opposite direction and feeding power back into the grid.
“We simply want to keep other citizens from footing the bill,” Soper said.
After much debate from both sides, the council and the solar group agreed to discuss the matter further, assisted by solar energy experts assumedly from UMPA. There is no timetable for when this meeting will take place as of yet. Until then, the surcharge remains in place for Manti solar owners.