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The City Journals

Sustained interest in Murray’s solar credit program

Nov 11, 2020 11:07AM ● By Shaun Delliskave

Solar panel users can receive a credit toward their electric bills. (Shaun Delliskave/City Journals)

By Shaun Delliskave | [email protected]

Murray residents continue to join the city’s net metering program, where credit is issued to power customers for electricity fed back into the power grid, such as solar. Murray Power Energy Services Manager Matt Youngs spoke July 7 to the Murray City Committee of the Whole meeting, noting that despite the pandemic, the number of enrollees in the program continues to be healthy.

“Net Metering” is a method of measuring the difference between the electricity supplied by the city to the customer through the city’s electric distribution system and the electricity generated on the customer’s premises, which is fed back into the city’s electric distribution system. A customer is then issued a credit for any net energy.

As one of the first net metering programs in the state, dating back to 2006, Murray currently has 11 commercial customers and 153 residential customers in the city. Those installations’ capacity is 936-kilowatts (kW), which provides enough energy to cover less than 1% of the city’s energy demands at peak usage time.

Solar panels containing photovoltaic cells are installed on a customer’s roof. Sunlight is then converted into Direct Current (DC), but the kind of power used in the home is Alternating Current (AC). An inverter is used to convert the electricity from DC to AC. The electricity is used to meet the customer’s energy needs, but the excess is exported to the power grid if more is produced. When less is created, the customer receives electricity from the grid. 

A net meter is installed that measures the amount of electricity that flows to and from a residence. At the end of a billing period, usually 30 days, if the customer has exported more energy to the grid than they received, they would receive a credit of kilowatt-hours (kWh) on their next bill.

Residents on the east side of Murray who are customers of Rocky Mountain Power have access to a net metering tiered system. In contrast, Murray Power currently has a one-to-one credit structure.

According to Youngs, “There is value in continuing the one-to-one credit as it eliminated transmission costs, and I believe solar is a valuable locally produced form of energy.”

Credits do not accumulate perpetually with Murray Power but are reset every March. 

“The goal of the net metering program is to offset the demand for energy a customer had, not to sell excess energy back to the utility,” Youngs said.

Youngs believes the return on investment is one reason why there weren’t more net metering customers in Murray. It could take 20 or more years to pay off the solar energy system that some customers purchased. Other factors include the reduction in Utah State Tax Credit, from $2,000 to $1,600, and the reduction in Federal Tax Credit, from 30% to 26%, for solar energy systems. He expects a surge of installations toward the end of the year, as customers try to use these tax credits before they are eventually phased out.

“There were not a lot of early adopters, but things took off from 2014 on, due to the cost of solar coming down and tax incentives. Murray is currently on target to have the same number of installations as last year; approximately 20,” Youngs said.

Currently, Murray City Power has a 10-kW installation cap, but most installations were between 3- and 6-kW, with the average system size being 5-kW. Part of the reason for Murray’s 10-kW cap was to ensure installation limits did not have to be implemented. Based on a recent third-party Cost of Service Analysis, Murray City Power recommended that Murray continue the one-to-one credit as long as the 10-kW cap stayed in place for residential customers.

More information about Murray City Power’s Net Metering program can be found at https://www.murray.utah.gov/77/Net-Metering-Program. Rocky Mountain Power net metering program can be found here: https://www.rockymountainpower.net/

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