Ogden power bills could jump by $10 if city takes part in energy program | News, Sports, Jobs

Photo supplied, Weber State University

Weber State University was honored with the 2014 wattsmart Business Partner of the Year award from Rocky Mountain Power on March 26, 2014. This photo shows a solar PV (photovoltaic) project on the school’s Davis campus.

OGDEN — Taking part in an initiative meant to safeguard the environment via increased use of renewable energy resources could boost Ogden residents’ electricity bills by up to $10 a month, a Weber State University official thinks.

Consultants who have been helping Ogden and other communities weighing participation in the Community Renewable Energy Program, or CREP, estimate the increase will be around 7%, according to Janene Eller-Smith. She’s the city administrator who helps manage Ogden City Council operations.

The cost of taking part in CREP, teaming with power producer Rocky Mountain Power, has been a key question for Ogden leaders and others as debate over participating has progressed. How much more users are willing to pay for costlier green energy gets at the heart of the debate over efforts to shift away from reliance on carbon-producing fossil fuels, the aim of CREP.

Now, as leaders from Ogden and the other interested communities, prepare a final proposal to get the program off the ground, some of those details, while still preliminary, are trickling out. While providing estimated impacts to residential customers, potential rate hikes for commercial users haven’t publicly emerged.

Justin Owen, the energy manager for Weber State, which has provided expertise to Ogden as officials have debated CREP, estimates the increase for the average residential power customer would be $5 to $10 a month. “That’s my best guess with the information I have at this time,” he told the Ogden City Council during a work session last week focused on the CREP proposal.

Jenny Gnagey, a community research fellow with Weber State who helped conduct a survey of Ogden residents and power customers on the question of taking part in CREP, said the median residential power bill in Ogden is around $80. That means half of the residential power bills are more than $80 and half are less than that.

Going by the $5 to $10 a month estimate, the median average bill, then, would go to $85-$90 a month if the city ultimately joins the CREP initiative, still not a done deal. Using the 7% figure Eller-Smith provided, the median bill would go up to $85.60. According to the Weber State survey, Gnagey said, the median increase in respondents said they are willing to pay for electricity to take part in a program like CREP is 9.3%.

Utah lawmakers passed legislation in 2019 creating the framework for CREP and Ogden plus 17 other cities and counties, including Salt Lake City, Park City, Summit County and Moab, have been in talks about teaming up to formally take part. If the plans pan out, Rocky Mountain Power would bolster wind, solar and other renewable energy production to meet the power needs of the participating communities, reducing their reliance on carbon-based energy sources.

Renewable energy typically costs more, though the prices have trended downward, thus the CREP communities would face a bump up in power costs, perhaps the key point of contention in the debate on the topic.

The estimated increases provided by Owen and Eller-Smith notwithstanding, the precise price hike power customers could face is still up in the air. The 18 communities are formulating a rate proposal to submit to the Utah Public Service Commission, the state’s utility regulator, and that body would have final say. The cost to Rocky Mountain Power of securing access to the needed renewable energy resources would also be a factor.

What’s more, Ogden’s participation in the CREP program still isn’t a done deal. Only after the Public Service Commission weighs in on the rate proposal when submitted, and a more concrete rate structure emerges would the Ogden City Council take final action on participation.

The initial rate proposal will likely be submitted to the Public Service Commission around March, Eller-Smith estimates. Then the regulator could take up to nine months to review the submission and, potentially, tweak it. Would-be CREP cities and counties, including Ogden, would then have 90 days to finally decide whether to take part.

The CREP initiative contains opt-out provisions for low-income power users and others not interested in participating. Power customers in participating communities would automatically be enrolled in the program, paying the higher power fees, but would be able to opt out during the first three billing cycles. After that, customers would potentially have to pay a fee to opt out, according to the proposal in the works.

The City of Ogden’s power bill amounts to around $1.5 million per year, according to Mara Brown, management services director for the city. If rates go up by 10%, she said at last week’s work session, participating in CREP could mean $150,000 in increased costs for the city. Still, the city could opt out of taking part in the program even if the Ogden City Council voted to include the city in CREP, Eller-Smith said.

The 18 communities are also debating low-income plans, additional provisions geared to low-income power users to temper the impact of potential rate hikes if CREP plans proceed. One provision would allow them to opt out of the plan at any time without having to pay a fee while another would provide low-income power users with a credit on their bills to offset the rate hikes.


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