By Ryan Randazzo for The Arizona Republic
New solar customers would pay an average $21 a month in fees under a rate-increase proposal Arizona Public Service filed with state utility regulators April 2.
The amount is four times as great as the $5-per-month solar fee regulators awarded the company after a hard-fought battle with critics less than a year and a half ago. The request comes as record numbers of customers are installing rooftop solar in the utility’s territory.
Thursday’s request is the latest in a series of moves by utilities in Arizona and across the country to ensure solar customers continue to pay for the power and service they receive even as they offset much of their bill with excess electricity sent to the grid.
Utilities contend that non-solar customers will see higher bills as the cost of running the power grid increasingly shifts to them if solar customers escape most utility expenses.
In February, Salt River Project imposed a $50-a-month fee on solar users.
“This is about making solar sustainable for the future,” said Barbara Lockwood, APS general manager for regulatory policy.
APS is asking regulators to approve fees they were within hours of approving in 2013 before a last-minute compromise with the rooftop solar-leasing industry reduced the fee to what it is today.
The more than 30,000 APS customers who already have solar would keep their existing rates, at least until 2016, when the regulators at the Arizona Corporation Commission are expected to make broader rate changes to address the proliferation of solar and the expected arrival of residential battery systems and other energy technology.
Any customer who has gone solar since January 2014 potentially could see changes at that point, although customers who installed systems before then probably will not be affected.
If approved, the fee increase APS is seeking would not raise the overall amount of revenue the utility collects. The amount the company collects from solar customers through this fee reduces the amount charged to non-solar customers.
New solar customers can avoid the fees if they go on a rate plan that includes a demand charge, which is based on the highest use of electricity during peak hours.
Read more at The Arizona Republic