By Julie Wiessner
Arizona Corporation Commission (ACC) staff members finished their review of a proposal submitted by Arizona Public Service Co. (APS) for future rooftop solar installations on Sept. 30.
APS wants to alter the current net metering structure and include a bill credit option, along with increasing up-front cash incentives to invest in solar. ACC staff, however, recommends that APS hold off on any changes concerning rooftop solar until 2015.
Although ACC staff has given recommendations for the commissioners to consider, nothing becomes official until the commissioners, the regulators of public utility companies, meet on Oct. 16 and 17 to discuss the APS proposal and staff recommendations.
The ACC staff recommends grandfathering in current rooftop solar customers and holding workshops so ACC policy can reflect exactly what rooftop solar installations bring to the grid.
Two alternative suggestions include a Lost Fixed Cost Recovery (LFCR) Flat Charge for all new APS solar rooftop customers, or the ETC-2 rate.
According to Communications Director for Arizona Solar Center Jim Arwood, “The ETC-2 rate is a rate customers can opt for, and includes a charge based on demand to partially cover fixed costs. The LFCR would have new solar customers pay a flat rate, reducing the impact on non-solar customers.”
The estimated rate would be a monthly increase of $2 to $3, compared to the $50 to $100 a month under the APS proposal.
The second ACC staff recommendation is to gradually implement a rooftop solar premium to minimize the immediate impact on future solar customers. The amount suggested was $2.75/kW.
Arwood emphasized that, “ACC’s staff preferred to put off any rate changes or charges until the next APS rate case scheduled for 2015 so the entire rate structure could be considered. This could produce a different set of recommendations.”
Many solar groups have also wanted APS to wait until the next rate case. Arwood said, “These solar groups feel that to address this issue without looking at the entire rate structure was, in their opinion, incomplete or lacking.”
Although current rooftop solar customers use the grid to take energy from it when needed and to put energy into it when there is a surplus generated from their solar panels, at this time, they use the grid for free. This puts more infrastructure cost to maintain a working grid on non-solar customers.
According to APS Chairman and CEO Don Brandt, “As more customers install solar on their homes, it becomes even more important that everyone who uses the grid shares in the cost of keeping it operating reliably for the future.”
APS spokesperson Jenna Shaver commented on ACC staff recommendations, noting, “It’s clear that the current net metering structure is not fair for all customers and must be changed. We can now move forward with productive discussions on the best solutions for all customers.”
APS also offered the following information on solar power in the state:
* APS is spending $1 billion to build and operate solar plants across the state.
* Arizona ranks No. 1 nationally for the most utility-scale solar facilities installed.
* Arizona ranks No. 1 for solar electricity capacity per resident.
* Arizona ranks No. 2 nationally for total solar installations.
* APS ranks as one of the top 10 solar utilities in America.
* 300-plus schools are participating in APS programs to install solar panels.
* APS will power 185,000 homes with solar energy by the end of 2013.
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By Julie Wiessner