SolarCity, Salt River Project antitrust lawsuit heads to Supreme Court
- Two years ago, SolarCity sued Salt River Project over the public power utility's increased charges for solar customers, which amounted to about $50/month. Now, the U.S. Supreme Court has agreed to hear arguments to determine if that case, brought under antitrust law, can move forward.
- The high court will determine whether antitrust lawsuits can be brought against state-regulated agencies.
- SRP says the charges are necessary to recover the costs of maintaining the distribution grid, while SolarCity has argued they are a way for the utility to make solar uncompetitive and exert monopoly control.
It's a wonky case not directly tied to solar energy policy, but nonetheless it will be closely watched by the energy industry. SolarCity, now owned by Tesla, is claiming the utility is exerting monopoly control over the market to drive out competition created when solar owners generate some of their own electricity.
In a June decision, the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals ruled SolarCity's case could move forward, prompting the utility's appeal the the Supreme Court. The docket for Salt River Project Agricultural Improvement and Power District v. SolarCity Corp. can be found here.
In the Ninth Circuit decision, the court held that Salt River Project "cannot invoke the collateral-order
doctrine to immediately appeal the rejection of a state-action immunity defense."
In a blog post two years ago announcing the lawsuit, SolarCity said the new solar charges “punish customers” who purchase solar with “discriminatory penalties” and will make the rooftop solar business “impossible” in SRP’s territory.
SolarCity said this move by SRP threatens many of Arizona’s more than 9,000 solar jobs and solar growth that has made Arizona one of the top ten states for installed solar capacity. Following the new fees, applications for rooftop solar in the SRP territory fell 96%, according to the solar company.
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