Net metering fracas heats up in Arizona


By: SGN Staff


Quick Take: Just as a new California bill offers hope of a net metering compromise, the battle is heating up in neighboring Arizona.- By Jesse Berst


It's getting ugly in Arizona. The Washington Post's GovBeat blog reports that the dispute over how much utilities should pay for power from private rooftop solar panels "is boiling over into a full-fledged campaign, complete with shadowy money, expensive television advertising, calls for grass-roots action and some of the best pollsters and consultants money can buy."


Utilities want to stop paying above-market rates for power they can't always use. Arizona Public Service Company (APS) has filed a request with the utilities commission to lower those rates and to charge net metering customers a monthly maintenance fee. APS pays about 15 cents per kilowatt-hour to net metering customers. It wants reduce that amount to between 4 cents and 10 cents.


APS claims non-solar customers are subsidizing solar customers to the tune of $18 million per year, a figure that CleanTechnica disputes, calling it a "factual discrepancy."  Residential solar panels generate less than 2% of APS's total power. Of APS's 1.1 million customers, only about 27,000 have solar panels.


But the Arizona dogfight has national implications. The solar industry fears that an APS victory could start a trend to lower prices for solar power, which would cut into their sales. For utilities, a negative ruling would add to a string of recent defeats in other states.


"This is about fairness. It’s about addressing the cost shift that clearly exists,” said Jim McDonald, a spokesman for APS to GovBeat. "The current net metering structure creates a cost shift that unfairly burdens non-solar customers. We should fix that problem now before it gets worse.”


Jesse Berst is the founder and Chief Analyst of SGN and Chairman of the Smart Cities Council, an industry coalition.


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