Arizona: Utility regulators to consider value of solar

Dive Brief:

  • The Arizona Corporation Commission (ACC) has opened a generic docket to consider both the costs and benefits of rooftop solar, which will need to be completed before changes are made to fee structures in the state, PV Magazine reports. 
  • Arizona Public Service (APS) has proposed significantly higher fees, but offered to withdraw that proposal if the commission opened an investigation into the cost of service related to distributed solar.
  • Regulators went a step further, however, opening the broader docket that also included solar benefits amid allegations the commission may already be stacked in the utility's favor.

Dive Insight:

Bowing to pressure from solar advocates, the ACC has opened a broad hearing on the value of solar amid allegations that political donations to two commissioners may have tied them too closely to Arizona Public Service.

“The Commission determined that ratepayers deserve a full rate hearing before they impose any fees,” Court Rich, an attorney for The Alliance for Solar Choice (TASC), told PV Magazine. “The new docket will discuss the costs and the benefits of solar, which APS did not want to do. They only wanted to talk about costs.”

APS had asked that state regulators open a cost-of-service proceeding for distributed solar to conclusively determine if costs are shifted among customers. The study "breaks down all the costs the utility incurs in providing power to the customer,” Greg Bernosky, APS's director of state regulation and compliance, told Utility Dive. The utility earlier this month sent a cost-of-service summary to the ACC saying it found a $67 monthly cost-shift for non-solar customers. 

But amid all the regulatory wrangling over APS' proposed fees, Sunrun, a third-party installer, asked two commissioners to recuse themselves; the company believed the utility was behind more than $3 million in donations to their election campaigns last year. A third commissioner was asked to recuse himself on the grounds he'd made public statements opposing solar PV.

“This is more interesting than regulatory law should be,” said TASC lawyer Rich.

APS had proposed to raise the grid access charge to $3/kW (about $21 per month for the typical solar user), up from $0.70/kW or $5. Before any changes can be made now, the commission will need to fully investigate the impacts of rooftop solar. 

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Filed Under: Solar & Renewables
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