Regulators at the Arizona Corporation Commission (ACC) put their stamp of approval late last week on a new surcharge unfairly penalizing customers that go solar. The state’s utilities charge customers a monthly fee to help pay for solar-panel rebates and to purchase clean energy to meet the state’s 15% by 2025 renewable energy standard. Until now, those fees were charged based on a customer’s energy use—if you use more power, you pay more of a fee—so that when customers went solar and started feeding a lot of excess clean energy back to the grid via net metering, they would pay less in renewable energy fees. That framework makes sense given that solar customers have already paid thousands of their own dollars to install solar arrays, and are reducing the grid’s need for things like transmission and distribution lines.
Last Friday, however, the ACC, led by Commissioner Brenda Burns, changed the fee structure to require that Arizona solar customers pay a fee not tied to their net consumption from the grid, but instead based on the amount of power they would have bought if they didn’t have solar. (You can read an Arizona Republic article on the decision here.) Sure, that new fee may be only be a few bucks per month for a residential customer with solar, but it treats solar customers differently than others and adds uncertainty regarding how much customers will save when they are deciding whether to go solar. And for commercial customers that use a lot of electricity but also generate a lot with solar, this change in the fee structure could end up costing a lot.
Arizona policymakers often say they want to make their state to make a leader in solar energy production, but how will they get there if they put in place unfair solar disincentives like this one?
Vote Solar is a non-profit grassroots organization working to fight climate change and foster economic opportunity by bringing solar energy into the mainstream.