- Salt River Project (SRP), the municipal utility for Tempe, Arizona, is asking its board for permission to add a $50 per month charge to the bills of solar owners. It is also asking for a 3.9% across-the-board rate increase.
- SRP testified that it wants to add the extra charge for solar owners to recover costs for grid maintenance lost when solar owners purchase less electricity from the utility and their infrastructure charges are proportionately reduced. Utilities say this shifts the burden to non-solar-owning customers.
- The utility board meeting hall was overwhelmed by a 500-person-strong crowd, largely made up of solar advocates, protesting the utility’s plan. They accused the utility of ruining the solar value proposition and of potentially threatening the resale value of homes with rooftop solar.
The furor in Tempe echoes the fight in 2013 when Arizona Public Service (APS), the state’s dominant electricity provider, asked the Arizona Corporation Commission (ACC) for a similar bill charge for solar owners. Following bitter debate, the ACC allowed an approximately $7 per month charge. As a muni, SRP is not regulated by the ACC.
Utilities across the country have taken comparable requests to state regulators. In Wisconsin, regulators granted demand charges to Madison Gas and Electric, Wisconsin Public Service, and We Energies. Interveners in that proceeding recently told Utility Dive they felt the regulators had essentially decided beforehand to support the new charges.
Cooperation between utilities and solar advocates in South Carolina headed off potentially bitter debates on demand charges and the cost shift. Joint working groups helped write 2014’s Distributed Energy Resource Program Act, which provided for a comprehensive study of solar’s costs and benefits to the grid and opened the door to what could be a solar boom in South Carolina.