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January 15, 2016

Rocky Mountain Power responds to "Brown Sky" Report

HEAL Utah released its “Brown Sky” report, which made 20 separate, inflammatory statements against Rocky Mountain Power and its Blue Sky program. This blog is to let customers know the truth about the 10 basic issues raised in the report.

HEAL CLAIM #1 – Rocky Mountain Power uses fossil fuels, mostly coal, for 85 percent of its power. Blue Sky does not diminish the percent of coal used as a fuel source to produce electricity sold by Rocky Mountain Power.

FACTS:

  • These figures are incorrect. The amount of electricity produced using coal fuel is decreasing at Rocky Mountain Power.
  • Currently 61 percent of the fuel used by Rocky Mountain Power and all states served by PacifiCorp is from coal. That number will continue to decrease to less than 50 percent within the next 10 years and the company plans are to end coal generation at 10 generating units during the next decade.
  • Rocky Mountain Power is transitioning away from coal as its main source of fuel, but the key word is transitioning. There is no way to make this change overnight as HEAL Utah desires and still provide safe, reliable and affordable electricity to our customers.
  • Our non-carbon generating capacity will equal 30 percent of our retail energy mix by the end of 2016.
  • The company is the second largest rate-regulated utility owner of wind generation in the U.S.

HEAL CLAIM #2 – RECs don’t bring renewable energy directly to Rocky Mountain Power customers.

FACTS:

  • Electricity does not flow from a specific source to a specific customer, but the exact amount of renewable energy supported through the Blue Sky program comes from a renewable source on the regional power grid and can only be claimed by Blue Sky customers. The Blue Sky program and marketing are overseen and scrutinized by the Utah Public Service Commission and has been Green-e Energy certified for 8 years.
  • Blue Sky purchases Renewable Energy Certificates (RECs). These RECS are proof that 1 megawatt-hour of renewable energy was generated and delivered to the regional power pool. They represent ownership of a specific amount of renewable electricity produced. They are an efficient and affordable way to purchase renewable energy and reduce personal carbon footprint.
  • Purchasing RECs is just one way to bring renewable energy onto the grid and helps renewable energy projects become more economically feasible.
  • RECs purchased by Blue Sky are retired on behalf of Blue Sky customers. The company does not claim such RECs toward renewable portfolio standards.
  • The Environmental Protection Agency video below shows how RECs protect the environment and support more renewable energy projects.

HEAL CLAIM #3 – Blue Sky projects are too small to change the mix of resources used to generate electricity.

Solar projectFACTS:

  • The Blue Sky funds support large-scale renewable projects through REC purchases. These range from about 10 megawatts to 250 megawatts each and they are not owned by Rocky Mountain Power. These are separate from the company’s rate base generation mix.
  • During the past 15 years, Blue Sky customers in all states served by PacifiCorp have supported more than 5 billion kilowatt-hours of renewable energy, enough power for more than half a million homes for a year.
  • The Blue Sky funds have also funded community projects which were never meant to be large-scale projects. These projects benefit local schools, nonprofit organizations and community groups, such groups otherwise may be unable to afford the technology.
  • Rocky Mountain Power also provides grants for commercial and residential projects through the Utah Solar Incentive Program. These grants will total $50 million over 5 years.

HEAL CLAIM #4 – The new Subscriber Solar project is too small to make a difference in the resource mix that generates electricity.

FACTS:

  • Transition takes time and begins with what HEAL labels “a step in the right direction.”
  • Rocky Mountain Power continues to serve customers during this transition while HEAL Utah seems to be advocating unplugging all customers until an entire infrastructure can be replaced with a new technology that is still being developed.
  • Building any new generating resource, requires the time to permit, construct and bring other new facilities online. The Subscriber Solar program provides all customers with the opportunity to purchase solar energy produced right here in Utah.
  • The Subscriber Solar program has many advantages for customers who choose to become early adopters.

HEAL CLAIM #5 – Rocky Mountain Power blocks all customers – including companies like eBay and WalMart – from purchasing renewable energy.

FACTS:

  • The company has worked with companies like these to create legislation that would provide more renewable options. The legislation passed and the Public Service Commission set the electric rates.
  • Rocky Mountain Power and eBay continue to look for solutions using the new rate structure. In the meantime, eBay continues its voluntary participation in Blue Sky at the Champion business partnership level.
  • The Subscriber Solar program provides all customers the opportunity to purchase solar energy produced right here in Utah.
  • Customers in Utah have a choice – some desire more renewable energy and choose to pay extra for the additional supply.

HEAL CLAIM #6 – Rocky Mountain Power overstates the amount of renewable power in its resource mix by selling the renewable energy to third parties and in some cases does not acquire it.

FACTS:

  • This claim is based on HEAL Utah’s misunderstanding of data provided to the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC).
  • The company sells its energy to its customers. Should excess generation exist on the system, this generation can be sold to other utilities to meet their energy needs. These are called sales for resale and they reduce the company’s fuel cost to its customers.
  • This publicly available data is reported as “basic fuel mix” and is based on energy production, not on the capability, capacity or amount delivered by any renewable resource.

HEAL CLAIM #7 – Cutler dam is reported as a producing electricity full time when it is only producing part time.

FACT: Production at the Cutler dam is reported to the FERC as required by law and it clearly states this project does not produce at full capacity.


HEAL CLAIM #8 – Utahns want more renewable energy and are willing to pay higher rates to accomplish that.

FACTS:

  • Envision Utah and other polls document that Utahns support clean energy but most do not want to pay extra for it.
  • Utahns like renewable energy sources, but if the cost of electricity triples due to storage costs, respondents aren’t interested.
  • About five percent of Utah customers voluntarily participate in the Blue Sky program as an affordable, costs-effective way to support renewable energy resources.
  • The Subscriber Solar program provides an additional avenue for customers to affordably support renewable energy.
  • More and more, voluntary support for renewable energy gives customers a way to evaluate and personally decide whether to support renewable energy.
  • “Poll results show people want cleaner power generation, but they do not want to give up affordability to get it,” said Alan Matheson, executive director of the Utah Department of Environmental Quality and Gov. Gary Herbert’s environmental advisor. Read source article

HEAL CLAIM #9 – Rocky Mountain Power fights buying renewable energy from those that produce it.

FACTS:

  • Federally mandated power purchases (Public Utility Regulatory Policy Act) require the company to buy electricity from qualifying generation facilities.
  • These purchases are more than 40 percent above market price and will cost customers an additional $1.1 billion during the next 10 years.
  • Rocky Mountain Power wants to save its customers from paying these increased costs and will continue to work with state regulators on the best methods to keep prices fair.
  • These savings will be directly allocated to Rocky Mountain Power customers and will not affect the company’s profits. Learn more

HEAL CLAIM #10 – Rocky Mountain Power’s coal-fueled power plants contribute more than half of the carbon emissions in Salt Lake City.

FACTS: Our coal plants do not contribute to carbon emissions in Salt Lake City. The majority of air pollution on the Wasatch Front comes from motor vehicles – 56 percent according to the Utah Department of Environmental Quality’s Division of Air Quality. Read source article

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