APS Bails on Solar ‘Grid Access’ Charge

Arizona Public Service has offered to forgo its request for an interim increase to the grid access charge (Docket No. E-01345A-13-0248) – a fee to be paid by the residential owners of distributed generation, such as rooftop solar – instead asking the Arizona Corporation Commission on September 25 to move forward with “cost of service” hearings to ensure that future electricity rates are fair to all customers.

If the five-member Arizona Corporation Commission (ACC) accepts the Arizona Public Service (APS) proposal, the hearings would not result in any changes to electricity rates. Instead, they would help the commission to determine how much it actually costs for APS to serve customers with rooftop solar, as well as real amount those customers pay today for their continuing reliance on the grid.

This all started last April, when APS filed with the ACC to increase grid access charges on solar customers from 70 cents per kilowatt (kW), or about $5 per month, to $3/kW, or about $21 per month. The utility’s rationale for the rate hike was that solar customers are currently not compensating APS for their use of the power grid, which shifts costs to non-solar customers.

Conversely, rooftop solar advocates are contending that access fees will hinder potential sales.

In offering to change its proposal, the utility commented, “Our original request essentially asked the ACC to implement a decision it made two years ago.  It would have helped to address an inequity that virtually everyone agrees needs to be fixed, other than the small handful of rooftop solar leasing companies that profit from prolonging the problem. Our proposal would have benefited the vast majority of electricity customers while producing no additional profits for APS.

“Unfortunately,” the utility continued,” what should have been a relatively simple decision-making process has been turned into political theater by attacks and distortions from rooftop solar leasing companies that seek to paralyze Arizona regulators. We hope our proposal will provide an alternative for the ACC to move forward with a much-needed discussion about how to update electricity pricing to reflect energy innovations like rooftop solar, battery storage and home energy management systems.”

APS is asking for a decision by March 2016 so that the results can be incorporated into its next rate case.

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