APS seeks to charge new solar customers more

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By Tami Hoey By Tami Hoey
By Tami Hoey By Tami Hoey
By Tami Hoey By Tami Hoey
By Tami Hoey By Tami Hoey

PHOENIX -- Arizona Public Service Co. is proposing charging customers who install rooftop solar panels $50 to $100 dollars or more a month, to cover the cost of maintaining the power grid. The solar industry says it is a move that could result in thousands of jobs lost, but the utility says the fee is justified.

“Right now the model isn't sustainable,” said Gregory Bernosky, Manager of Renewable Energy for APS. “We love customers to go solar; the energy is a great resource as part of our energy portfolio. But this is about cost shifting and fairness to non-solar customers.”

APS wants its future solar customers to pay more. Currently, as part of a program called net metering, solar customers receive credit for the excess energy generated by their solar panels. But APS says those customers are getting too much credit for the power they send to the grid.

“We're not collecting all the costs we need to maintain infrastructure from solar customers, and as time goes on and we have more of them, they put a greater burden on non-solar customers,” said Bernosky.

That's the reason APS has proposed charging customers who install rooftop solar panels $50 to $100 dollars more a month to cover the cost of maintaining the power grid.

Tim Hanna, who works for Solar City and utilizes solar energy himself, routinely, sees $20 and $30 power bills even in the summer.  And while the proposed rate increase would not affect him, he expects this plan will have people second guessing the solar investment.

“I think it will put a big damper on things because whenever you talk to people, you tell them they can save a good chunk of money, and now they might not be able to save like they used to,” said Hanna.

Solar is big business in Arizona, and accounts for some 10,000 jobs. But many fear this APS proposal, if approved, could decimate the industry. A group of solar advocates have now formed a group called T.U.S.K., or Tell Utilities Solar won’t be Killed. Chairman Barry Goldwater Jr. is calling on APS to change its business plan and be a leader with this renewable resource.

“Louisiana and Idaho fought similar proposals,” said Meghan Nutting Director or Government Affairs for Solar City.  “No other state with net metering, which is 43 states, has enacted a tax hike like this.  It's crazy that Arizona, the sunniest state in the nation, might actually consider doing this.”

APS already has something called the Lost Fixed Recovery Cost Mechanism that helps them reset rates and recoup profits lost by customers becoming more energy efficient and using solar. But they say that's not enough.

“We're trying to find a way to fairly compensate solar users for power they generate but also have them fairly pay the price for the grid they are still connected to,” said Bernosky.

Regulators are reviewing the proposal but no decision is expected for several months.

For more information on the APS plan you can visit http://azenergyfuture.com/

For more information on the protest, visit http://dontkillsolar.com/site/