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Utah's Solar Subscriptions

New utility strategies to combat climate change

Rocky Mountain Power has launched a novel solar subscription program for its Utah customers that will enable them to lock in their solar energy resource for two decades, according to Cindy Crane, the utility’s chief executive officer and president.

The effort, she said, is “unique in not making the customer buy into the solar plant,” she said. But they can tap into solar power, long-term, even if they cannot afford to install solar units themselves.

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Cindy Crane

In an exclusive interview, Crane said that sister utilities owned by Berkshire Hathaway Energy as well as well as other utilities are looking at the novel experiment to make solar energy resources available to a more diverse group of electric consumers.

Crane will be joining a panel of utility executives from across the United States and from as far off as Germany to discuss utility business innovation at the Empowering Customers & Cities executive energy conference in Chicago November 1-2.

Asked to identify a major disruptive force now faced by electric utilities, Crane said, “regulatory processes.” She added, “It takes so long to get through regulatory processes.”

On the solar front, the company is building a 20-megawatt solar facility near Holden, Utah, in the center of the state. According to Crane, the output from that project is almost fully subscribed. The unit will be its third utility scale solar generation project in the Millard County area.

Customers will buy the solar power in 200-kilowatt-hour blocks, up to their total average monthly energy usage. During summer peak energy periods, the solar buyers may be paying less for power than their neighbors who do not opt in to the program, the utility said.

Billing for the new program will start in January.

Kate Bowman, solar project coordinator for Utah Clean Energy, said, “Just as some people choose to purchase their car outright while others prefer to lease a car, more flexible options for purchasing solar expands access to energy choice. It is a step towards a cleaner, more diversified and resilient energy system.”

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