As they say in the movies, just before things get noisy: “It’s quiet — too quiet.” That’s been the case in Arizona for the past couple months, as the Arizona solar industry adjusts to a series of attacks from Arizona Public Service, the state’s largest utility.
APS made waves last year by seeking to impose huge monthly fees on its home solar customers — fees as high as $100 per month, which would kill the solar boom happening in that sunniest of states. The closest thing to a positive outcome from that crisis was the fact that the state’s public utility commission slashed those feels almost entirely way: The utility can charge solar homeowners just $5 per month for generating clean energy.
After that fee became reality, reporter Ryan Randazzo of the Arizona Republic kept track of how it affected solar permits in APS’s service area. Randazzo found that APS solar permit requests in January 2014 dropped by more than 50 percent over January 2013. Meanwhile, the Salt River Project — the utility that serves the bustling Phoenix metro area — saw a 25 percent increase in solar customers during that same timeframe.
This week, however, the other shoe dropped. Randazzo has a new report that shows SRP is following in APS’s footsteps, seeking raise fees on its solar customers by $50 a month, while also raising fees on its non-solar customers by $5 per month.
Randazzo writes: “The new solar fees are an attempt to charge for the cost of maintaining the power grid, even from those who generate much of their own electricity….SRP is a municipal utility and will not need regulatory approval, as APS does, to put the fees in place.”
SRP’s board will vote on the fees in February; in the meantime, there are three opportunities for the public to comment on the proposed fees — two in early January and one in early February.
The pro-solar pushback will of course be strong. Randazzo quotes Court Rich, an attorney for The Alliance for Solar Choice, as saying: “SRP might as well simply outlaw solar within its service territory if it is going to hit people with a $50 to $100 charge for their right to use the sun….This proposal means that as of December 8, there will be no more solar industry in SRP’s service territory, and they make this decision without public input and without a board vote. Do the members of the SRP board really want to be known for taxing solar out of existence in the sunniest state in the country?”
We’ll find out soon … too soon.
Phoenix solar array photo CC-licensed by Schwnj on Wikimedia.