Frequently Asked Questions
Net-100% renewable electricity means matching the program’s electricity consumption with renewable generation connected to Rocky Mountain Power’s system on an annual basis. The Community Renewable Energy Act defines renewable energy resources as sources that are “naturally replenished,” including wind, solar, geothermal, and hydroelectric.
The definition also allows the development of other clean energy-enabling technologies like energy efficiency, demand response, and energy storage. These enabling technologies can help bridge the gap between when renewable energy is generated and when it is consumed.
Customers who participate in the Utah Renewable Communities Program will still be connected to the Rocky Mountain Power system and will enjoy the same reliability standards as “standard offer” Rocky Mountain Power customers.
Utah Renewable Communities anticipates a small rate increase, but an exact amount is not known at this time.
According to a 2017 study by Energy Strategies, a net-100% renewable energy scenario could result in 9% to 14% higher rates for communities by 2032. However, solar prices have since declined, with a 25.5% drop in the cost of Utah solar according to Rocky Mountain Power's 2021 assessment. To prevent significant rate increases, the Governance Agreement has a 10% threshold called "incremental rate impact," requiring a two-thirds affirmative vote from participating communities if the average Program rate exceeds the standard delivery service. Recent renewable energy procurement by Summit County, Park City, and Salt Lake City showed modest rate impacts, with the Elektron Solar Project estimated to increase electricity costs by less than 2% while providing 90% of government operations' electricity consumption in Salt Lake City.
The goal of the Community Renewable Energy Act is to achieve an amount equivalent to 100% renewable electricity for participating customers by 2030. The Program will seek to acquire renewable resources gradually between now and 2030 to maintain a balance between new Program resources and the number of participating customers. By law, the program rate may be adjusted once per year.
If, after all the resources are built, there is a major drop in participation, the Agency will seek to stabilize rates using an envisioned financial backstop reserve fund and other mechanisms. Ultimately, customers may exit the program if the charge becomes too high.
The Agency has hired a well-respected energy law firm and analytical energy consultant to help guide the Agency's ongoing negotiation with Rocky Mountain Power. That negotiation will define how the costs and benefits of Program resources will be calculated and allow the Agency and Rocky Mountain Power to estimate how much the Program will cost for residents and businesses to participate. An initial Program rate will be included in the Program Application and approved by the Utah Public Service Commission before communities decide whether to commit to the Program.
The Utah Renewable Communities Program is designed to achieve net-100% renewable electricity for participating customers in participating communities.
Although the Program is still under development, the Agency currently envisions using the Program to complement the renewable energy that Rocky Mountain Power customers already pay for. For example: if Rocky Mountain Power’s energy mix is forecast to be 50% renewable by 2030, the Program would seek to “close the gap” by supplying the remaining 50% from new Program renewable energy resources. The greener Rocky Mountain Power’s grid gets by 2030, the fewer resources the Program would need to acquire to “close the gap” and achieve the net-100% goal for participating customers.
The Basics: How does this affect me and my family?
The Program: Can you give me more information?
The Community Renewable Energy Act (also known as House Bill 411) only applies to communities served by Rocky Mountain Power that “adopt[ed] a resolution no later than December 31, 2019, that states a goal of achieving an amount equivalent to 100% of the annual electric energy supply for participating customers from a renewable energy resource by 2030.”
Twenty-three communities passed qualifying resolutions by December 31, 2019, and therefore became eligible to participate in the Utah Renewable Communities Program. Of those 23, 18 remained eligible to participate by signing the Governance Agreement. Unless the Community Renewable Energy Act is modified, no additional communities will be able to participate.
As required by state law, all communities who want to participate in the Utah Renewable Communities program need to sign the Utility Agreement. The Community Renewable Energy Agency signed this agreement on October 2, 2023 and requested that all 18 member communities sign it and send it to the Board's Secretary by November 17, 2023. For more information, please see the linked Utility Agreement, informational memo, and slides.
At this time we do not know who will own the program resources, which will be procured through a competitive bidding process.
State regulations provide an option for Rocky Mountain Power to own or purchase program assets if the Public Service Commission finds that including such an option is not contrary to the interest of participating customers and other customers. As such, it is possible that program resources could either be owned by third-party renewable energy developers or Rocky Mountain Power. See: Utah Admin. Code 746-314-402
Apart from noticing costs (which are handled differently), program implementation costs are shared according to the population and electric consumption of each eligible community. Using this formula means that larger communities tend to pay more of the implementation cost and smaller communities tend to pay less. If eligible communities decide not to participate, the amount they would have paid toward the total implementation cost will be covered by a handful of volunteer “anchor communities.”
What does the estimated $700k implementation cost actually pay for?
The $700,000 program startup costs were budgeted to include the following estimates:
$300k for legal and technical consultants who will work for the communities
$200k is for RMP program design and filing
$200k is for state regulators to contract third-party expertise to review the program
Therefore, the $700,000 does not include noticing costs or costs associated with developing and bringing online any particular renewable energy generation resources. The costs associated with developing and bringing online any particular renewable energy generation resources will be integrated into the customer rate. Those costs should be included into the Program rate.
Today, only extremely large electricity customers like universities, major companies, or municipal governments qualify to procure utility-scale renewable energy sources through special rate tariffs like Schedule 32 and Schedule 34. The Utah Renewable Communities Program seeks to extend a similar utility-scale renewable energy procurement option to all customers, large and small, within a participating community. The Agency will request proposals for new renewable resources, evaluate potential rate impacts, and vote on whether to acquire renewable energy resources.
The Utah Renewable Communities Program will be designed to drive large-scale renewable energy development that is accessible to nearly all Rocky Mountain Power customers.
Unlike Blue Sky (which is a certificate-based program), this Program will deliver electricity to the Rocky Mountain Power system.
Unlike a lot of rooftop solar arrangements, this Program will not require a large upfront investment or customer financing.
And unlike Subscriber Solar, this Program will not be capped at 20 Megawatts and can scale up to match customer interest.
The Agency currently estimates that the Program will acquire the equivalent of between 300 and 400 Megawatts of new solar and wind resources by 2030 to meet the net-100% renewable electricity goal.
This depends on which net metering arrangement a person has. The Community Renewable Energy Act states “A residential customer that is participating in the net metering program under Title 54, Chapter 15, Net Metering of Electricity, may not be a participating customer under this part.” This means people who have a Schedule 135 arrangement cannot participate in the Utah Renewable Communities Program. However, customers with more recent net metering arrangements–Schedule 136 and Schedule 137–are eligible to participate. Schedule 135 customers who want to join the Community Renewable Energy Program could consider joining Schedule 137 to gain eligibility; however, they should carefully consider whether such a transition makes financial sense and whether it helps accomplish their environmental goals.