The state’s five Corporation Commissioners now represent the last hope for the continued growth, and very survival, of Arizona’s quickly maturing-but-still-infant rooftop solar industry. A vast majority of the population support the growth of solar in the state, although there is widespread concern that Commissioners may side with the utility, Arizona Public Service, on the matter.
APS tossed aside a previously strongly-held façade of solar support when they released their proposal in July that recommends radical changes to, or even the complete elimination of, Arizona’s widely-utilized rooftop solar program called “net metering”.
The state’s net metering program is an essential prerequisite for rooftop solar’s success, granting home and business owners the ability to send electricity to the grid from their solar systems, while paying for the net amount that they receive from the utility. The program, along with the state’s Renewable Energy Standard and the brilliant work of engineers and entrepreneurs, is largely responsible for the 50% solar cost decline in the last five years.
APS claims non-solar owners are forced to pay $1.58 per month to maintain the grid for those with solar systems. Proponents of rooftop solar argue that distributed ownership of solar provides benefits to the grid, such as a reduced need for expensive power plant and transmission line construction, as well as providing societal benefits in the form of reduced pollution.
Corporation Commissioners are reportedly receiving a flood of public input in defense of rooftop solar. According to the solar policy organization “Vote Solar”, Commissioners have thus far received over 14,000 letters, emails, or phone calls from constituents in opposition to the APS tax-on-solar proposal and in favor of rooftop solar. Those opposing rooftop solar have reportedly generated roughly one tenth of that input, despite tens of thousands of dollars being spent by “dark money groups” “Prosper HQ” and “60 Plus Association” on TV and online advertising.
A vote may take place as soon as October 15th – although in typical ACC fashion – it’s difficult to predict exactly when a final vote will occur. It was previously believed that a vote would take place this winter. I will keep readers advised.