SRP rate hikes hit solar customers hard

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By Christina O'Haver By Christina O'Haver

PHOENIX -- SRP customers are expressing their frustrations about a new rate hike. The increase of 3.9 percent affects everyone, but it hits solar customers especially hard.

Even though most solar panel customers will be grandfathered in and won't see hikes for 20 years, the concern is for future customers and solar power in general.

The Salt River Project Board of Directors approved the rate hike for all of its customers on Thursday.

"It's just stupid. We have the sun here, we have lots and lots of jobs that depend upon it, and what they did is just kill a lot of jobs," said attorney Court Rich.

He has been outspoken on the plan and believes utility companies across the country view solar power as competition.

"They don't want you to have your own freedom. SRP, APS have been monopolies for 100 years. And they don't want to know the future doesn't look so good for them," Rich said.

Randy Miller has been using solar energy for years and says it has not only saved him money, but has also been good for the economy. Now he fears it'll just be too expensive.

"It kills the solar industry. There's not going to be any more rooftop solar installs in the SRP territory," Miller said.

SRP spokesman Scott Harelson says all customers will pay about $4.50 more per month. He says customers with new solar installations will pay about $50 more a month, because they'll be using the grid but not paying an equal share.

"We're very confident that the solar industry and the solar installers will find a way to adapt to this," Harelson said." They'll follow the price signal and they'll make changes, and the customer will change their behavior and adopt technologies that will continue to make rooftop solar successful."

Jim Stack runs his entire home and vehicle through solar energy and argues the hikes will kill any hope for the future.

"Power from above, it's like God gives you all this great power every day and gives more than you need if you use it wisely, and instead we're digging up coal from the ground that's still subsidized," he said.

Customers will notice the increases by April. Existing solar customers will be grandfathered in, so they won't see a rate hike for 20 years.