Arizona Utility Does a 180 on Solar

August 1, 2014 By Linda Hardesty

Although utility Arizona Public Service (APS) admitted to funding anti-solar advertisements last year, this week the company filed an application with the Arizona Corporation Commission for permission to get into the solar business, itself.

Its application states, “Responding to clear customer interest, APS proposes AZ Sun DG: a 20 MW utility-owned residential DG program.”

APS says the new program would help it meet its renewable energy requirements and that it would also support the local solar community by competitively selecting third-party local solar vendors to install the systems.

APS would install the solar on about 3,000 customer rooftops and then would “rent” these rooftops for 20 years in exchange for a $30 per month bill credit. These customers would not participate in net-metering.

Sun DG would be instituted in lieu of the 20 MW large-scale Redhawk solar facility proposed by APS earlier this year. APS estimates the capital cost to deploy the 20 MW AZ Sun DG program will be about $57-70 million.

APS is requesting a decision from the Commission on an expedited basis, with an order by September 5, 2014.

When APS paid for anti-solar ads last year, the company said net-metering customers were effectively profiting from non-solar customers. The dispute was resolved by the Arizona Corporation Commission, which instituted a surcharge on future net-metering customers to help pay for their use of the electricity grid.

As for APS’s application this week, the Solar Energy Industries Association (SEIA) is suspicious. Ken Johnson, SEIA’s vice president of communications, issued the following statement:

“After attacking rooftop solar companies in Arizona relentlessly for more than a year, this latest tactic by APS has a ‘Trojan Horse’ smell to it. Our member companies welcome fair and equal competition, but this move would stack the deck in favor of a company, which can rate-base solar with a guaranteed rate of return. How is that fair? The Arizona Corporation Commission needs to think this through very carefully.”

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