Last Friday (Sept. 25) Arizona Public Service (APS) announced that it planned to forgo its previously planned “cost of service” charge implementation for its customers with solar power installations. Under the planned charge residents with new solar arrays would have had to pay an average monthly service fee of $21 to put solar power back on the grid—now they pay $5 a month.
“Our original request essentially asked the ACC to implement a decision it made two years ago,” APS said in a statement. “Our proposal would have benefited the vast majority of electricity customers while producing no additional profits for APS.
APS is claiming the fee increase on solar users would make its rates more fair for all of its customers and levied the failure at solar installers: “Unfortunately, what should have been a relatively simple decision-making process has been turned into political theater by attacks and distortions from rooftop solar leasing companies that seek to paralyze Arizona regulators,” the utility claimed.
The cost of service charges are dubious because utilities seek to implement them to recoup what they see as lost revenue to their customers and claim that as a producer of electricity that they’re not paying their fair share of the maintenance for the electric grid. However, solar advocates argue that these users are putting more valuable electric back on the grid because it’s produced locally and helps utilities avoid installing more power production and new equipment. How rates are structured going ahead will have a big impact on the growth of rooftop solar power.
The utility made the request to the Arizona Corporation Commission but asked it to move forward with planned cost of service hearings. The utility said it made the request to help ensure that electric rates in the future are fair for all of its customers. Under this proposal the commission would study the how much it actually costs for the utility to serve its customers and that the commission make a decision by March 2016 so it can incorporate the recommendations into its future rates.
APS added: “The rooftop solar leasing companies don't want to have this discussion, especially not in a hearing where their representatives will be under oath. They will do anything to delay or change the subject. Take away their ability to engage in innuendo, personal attacks and bumper-sticker sloganeering and they have nothing left to offer.” It doesn’t sound like a pretty argument.Tweet