Arizona Puts the Brakes on APS Solar Fee Increase

We have a sunny update from Arizona where regulators at the ACC rejected an unjustified new solar charge that had been proposed by the state’s major utility, APS. The Commission also rightly decided that the future of solar-related rate design should be charted through a fact-based process that looks at both benefits and costs of local solar to Arizona. Looking ahead, it will be refreshing to be part of a conversation about solar based on facts rather than rhetoric and politics. Kudos to the ACC for setting the state in this direction.

Arizona solar clock

Let’s not forget: as of December 2013, APS already placed a $0.70/kW capacity charge on net metered customers, a discriminatory charge that slowed solar adoption in the sunny state to a crawl. Then in April of this year, the utility tried to add insult to injury, filing a motion to increase the charge to $3 – which would have amounted to $21/month on average. Not surprisingly, this gratuitous proposal to charge the state’s solar customers even more was highly controversial. Nearly all parties including the Commission’s own staff and ALJ said that this kind of change should not be made without a thorough investigation of solar’s costs and benefits.

Then, not six months after their motion asking for $3, APS returned to the Commission saying that it would be willing to forgo the $3 charge if the Commission agreed to limit the scope of the current hearing to only consider cost of service issues and explicitly not consider the very real cost-saving benefits of more private investment in local, reliable solar power. You heard right: all the costs, none of the benefits – that’s utility math for ya.

At the meeting yesterday the Commission first tossed out the $3 proposal and closed that docket. Then they considered what to do with the utility’s proposal to create a new process that looks only at solar’s costs. When it came time to vote, Commissioners Burns, Bitter Smith, and Little created a majority to decide that the ACC will undertake a single value of solar docket – looking at the full picture of both costs and benefits – before accepting any more of the utilities’ unfounded proposals.

The future of Arizona solar remains uncertain, but it is really exciting to see Commissioners standing up for energy choice and the interests of their energy consumers with these decisions.

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