Solar customers could get hit with big rate hike

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By Jennifer Thomas By Jennifer Thomas

GLENDALE Ariz. -- If you've gone solar, you could really be feeling the burn on your upcoming heating bills.

Salt River Project is proposing a rate hike for all customers, but it's the solar customers who will see the biggest increase and they are not happy.

The utility company held a forum at Glendale High School Thursday night. It was a full house and the meeting was peppered with interruptions, questions and jeers. The customers are mostly upset with how solar customers will be billed under these new proposals.

SRP wants to charge all customers a 3.9 percent hike so that would be $4.60 per month for most average customers. Economy price customers would go from $17 to $20. New solar customers could be hit with paying $50 more per month.

"We're losing on average about $50 a month for every one of our 15,000 solar customers and that is adding up, it's more than $10 million a year and if we go on, that's just going to grow exponentially and our other customers who don't have solar are going to have to pick up those costs and we don't believe that's the prudent way to go," said Scott Harelson, spokesman for SRP.

Current solar customers and those hoping to become solar customers had a lot to say at the meeting.

"What you're really doing is destabilizing solar households," said SRP customer Jason Manning. "You're destabilizing household budgets, you're destabilizing home values. You're basically destabilizing the househould as a whole."

Current solar customers would not be impacted by the change for 10 years, but new customers would be.

This is the second meeting of its kind. The first one was in Gilbert on Monday. Some customers said the locations were inconvenient and others said they wanted Spanish translators for these meetings. But for now, the next public meeting will be held at the SRP offices in Tempe at 9:30 a.m. on Feb. 9. The SRP board will then make a final vote on Feb. 26.