APS Revises Plan in Net Metering Battle

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Arizona Public Service plans to make a small concession in its proposal to reduce NEM rates to make it easier for current solar customers to sell their houses.

According to a recent article on AZ Central, Arizona Public Service (APS) said Wednesday that it plans to make a small concession in its proposal to reduce rooftop solar subsidies to make it easier for current solar customers to sell their houses.

Currently solar customers get credit for the excess of electricity they send back to the grid, the policy also known as Net Energy Metering (NEM). APS requested regulation authority Arizona Corporation Commission (ACC) in July to reduce the credits it pays customers with rooftop solar, or simply to charge them more for the power they buy at night. The utility’s proposal would add $50-100 to the average solar customer’s monthly electric bill, and ACC will consider APS’s request in its November meeting.

The proposal received a lot of criticism from solar advocates, and has become a full-blown campaign that includes a manufactured “grassroots campaign,” expensive TV ads, and some of the best lobbyists, researchers, and consultants money can buy. On Wednesday, approximately 40 solar advocates held a protest outside APS’ headquarters in downtown Phoenix.

APS’ proposition would affect new customers, including people buying existing homes with solar installations. Furthermore, the proposal would have an effect on the potential home sale for the 18,000 APS homeowners already in the NEM program because the buyers of these houses wouldn’t get the same deal as the current owners.

According to Barbara Lockwood, general manager of energy innovation for APS, they are now adjusting that point. The utility will ask the ACC to consider allowing the NEM contracts to remain for 20 years with the address, not the individual customer, allowing people with solar to sell their house and pass along the benefits of NEM to the new owners. 

“We’ve changed our position on that. Customers didn’t think that was right. You can credit that to the response from customers,” Lockwood commented.

According to Lockwoord the modification is in line with the views of the ACC staff, which opposed the adjustments APS suggested but did agree on the need to adjust NEM in some way. Lockwood said the utility will file the proposed alteration with the ACC before it’s November meeting. 

Solar Protest

Photo: Emmanuel Lozano/The Republic

APS officials planned to meet Wednesday’s protesters with pamphlets explaining the firm’s commitment to solar, but most protesters did not make it down to the area where the officials were awaiting them. 

“Dear Net Metering Protester,” started the letter handed out by the utility’s officials. “Our proposed changes would make solar energy sustainable for the long term, and restore fairness — and it will not harm those customers who have already answered the call to ‘go solar’ on their rooftop.” 

Among the protesters was retired ASU professor Ron Roedel of Phoenix, who used to teach courses in solar energy. According to Roedel, APS is being hypocritical regarding solar. “They say they stand for solar, but they keep putting obstacles in the path of it,” he commented.

Roedel questions the stance APS takes on solar subsidies, saying the utility insists the solar industry should operate without them. According to Roedel, every fossil-fuel industry needs subsidies. “To say solar should stand on its own is a bit preposterous,” he said.

Some of the protesters said that even though they don’t plan selling their homes, they still don’t like the utility’s plan because it will wipe out the financial incentive to use solar and prevent more people from installing rooftop solar.