KEARNS — There's a power struggle of sorts going on between Rocky Mountain Power and energy efficiency advocates.
Utah Clean Energy contends the power company is doing away with energy savings incentives in the years ahead, but Rocky Mountain Power insists it will continue giving money back to the customers through other incentives.
"Energy efficiency is a really, really important strategy to help housing affordability," said Kevin Emerson, energy efficiency program director for Utah Clean Energy.
For example, homeowners moving into a Habitat for Humanity housing development in Kearns called "Field of Dreams" rely on rebates from the power company to make the homes more affordable to build and to live in. Each of the homes being built is eligible for an $800 rebate for energy savings.
Energy efficiency advocates fear changes to those incentives will hurt homeowners.
"The house that you're standing in right now will only use $1.50 a day in total utility costs," said Ed Blake, executive director of Salt Lake Valley Habitat for Humanity, during a tour. He said the house is as "tight as a Thermos" and saves the family up to $100 a month.
"You're creating a future for these families where they're more economically stable," he said, "so the incentives help us do that."
But in its most recent 20-year plan, Rocky Mountain Power changes the way some of that money will be returned to the ratepayer.
"Unfortunately, it shows a very stark decline in the amount of energy they're planning on saving," Emerson said.
No details on which programs will be eliminated or changed were released.
"But what we do know is that there's about a 33 percent reduction over the next 20 years in what ratepayers can expect to have access to in the form of energy savings programs," Emerson said.
Rocky Mountain Power insists the amount of money returned to customers in incentives will not change.
"The programs aren't going away, and in the future, we will evaluate which programs make sense," said Spencer Hall, spokesman for Rocky Mountain Power. "Everybody on their bill has a little 4 ½ percent item that goes towards energy efficiency programs."
That money totals $6.7 million in 2018. The power company said some incentives will change because the energy efficiency market has evolved.
"Things that at one point we were incentivizing have now become the norm," Hall said. "Because of that, we have extra money. Our position is that it should be returned to the customers."
Rocky Mountain Power said it will invest in new programs that should make energy more affordable for all ratepayers.