A Closer Look at Solar Energy in Arizona

Commissioner Bob Burns Submits Letter on Net Metering

On June 17, Commissioner Bob Burns formally submitted a letter on net metering to the Arizona Corporation Commission, interested parties and stakeholders.

From the letter:

“I think we all will be striving for a net metering system that is fair to all, and in the spirit of fairness, cost subsidies that may penalize one group of customers at the expense of another will need to be looked at closely. I very much look forward to the Commission’s future consideration of matters related to net metering and exploring these issues with my colleagues.”

APS is currently studying the net metering issue and plans to submit a proposal to the Arizona Corporation Commission in mid-July.

Read the full letter.


Solar Customers Need Grid, Should Pay Fair Share

In an article published today by Greentech Media, APS explains why the current net metering system is unfair to non-solar ratepayers in Arizona and unsustainable for the long term:

“If net metering remains unchanged and solar growth continues, ‘You’re going to collect the costs to the system that everybody uses, including net metering customers, from a smaller and smaller group of customers who don’t have solar,’ [said APS Customers/Regulations Sr. VP Jeff Guldner]…

‘Cost-shifting is just math,’ Guldner said. ‘If there are 100 customers paying for a $1,000 system, they each pay $10 per month. If half of them install solar and stop paying, there are 50 customers and they pay $20.’

APS believes that rooftop solar is an important part of the renewable energy mix in Arizona. It’s a matter of finding the right way to balance the benefits of solar against its impact on ratepayers. “APS wants to get all this on the table and make decisions based on what the costs are,” says Guldner.

Read the full article.

Net Metering Issue Not Limited to Arizona

Home with Solar Panels on RoofThe Washington Post has turned the national spotlight on net metering with an article exploring the perspectives of both utilities and rooftop-solar advocates. The piece discusses how utilities in California and Virginia are dealing with net metering and highlights the fairness issue at the heart of the controversy:

“Utility officials contend that their solar customers enjoy the benefits of that [transmission and distribution] network, whenever they need it. But they pay less to build and maintain it, shifting costs onto other ratepayers.”

Read the full article, “Utilities and solar advocates square off over the future,” which appeared on June 9.

APS “Grid” Must Be Ready to Transmit Electricity

The retail rate customers pay for electricity includes the cost of power as well as costs to maintain the grid. Under the current net metering structure, when rooftop solar customers generate electricity, they avoid paying the retail rate. That means they don’t pay for the power, which is fair because they don’t use it, but they also don’t pay for the grid.

Solar AND APS, Not Solar OR APS

APS customers who install rooftop solar still must be connected to the grid. They use the grid in these scenarios:

APS Grid Must Be Ready











Because the net metering structure allows rooftop solar customers to avoid paying for the grid, that means someone else has to pay. That “someone else” is all other APS customers, who pay more to cover the grid costs. APS is trying to find a solution that is fair to all customers.

View this post in PDF format.

Smart Grid News Calls for “Reasonable Discourse” on Net Metering

Today Jesse Berst, founder of Smart Grid News, published his reaction to a new solar lobbying group’s messages about net metering:

A group of solar companies have banded together to lobby for more and better net metering standards. So far, no big deals… until you read the language they are using to describe their mission. According to this group, “monopoly utilities” are trying to “quash… renewable energy.” In fact, there is a “coordinated utility attack on net metering throughout the country.”

Really? A coordinated war campaign by all of the nation’s utilities to destroy renewable energy?

How sad to see yet another group resort to the nuclear option on day one instead of reasonable discourse. From where I sit, many utilities are opposed not to renewable energy, but to net metering regulations that force the people without solar panels to subsidize those that do. In most parts of the country, that means that lower and middle class customers subsidize wealthier customers who can afford the expense of solar panels.

 Read the full post: “Utilities’ new enemy is…the solar industry!?!


Free Enterprise Club, Americans for Prosperity AZ Weigh in on Net Metering

Yesterday the Arizona Free Enterprise Club (AzFEC) released a statement on net metering, which was shared in an Americans for Prosperity Arizona blog post:

“After years of increasing energy mandates and subsidies to prop up the solar industry at the expense of ratepayers, we are pleased to see the current commission begin to reevaluate and roll back these costly programs,”  [AzFEC] Executive Director Scot Mussi said.  “Under net metering, offering an energy credit to solar customers for excess power that they put back on the grid is a reasonable idea in concept, as long as other ratepayers are not forced to pay more for the energy than what the market dictates.  The current program, however, requires utility providers to pay several times more for this energy than what it is worth, a costly burden for all other ratepayers.”

“This is not ‘energy choice’ as the proponents would suggest, in fact it is just the opposite,” the statement continued. “We hope the commission will end this discriminatory subsidy and adopt a net metering policy that is market driven and equitable to all ratepayers.”

APS has not yet made a proposal to the Arizona Corporation Commission on how to deal with the net metering subsidy but shares the concern that rooftop solar must be fair to all customers and sustainable for the long term.