SolarCity, Salt River Project could settle lawsuit, opening door to residential storage
- Salt River Project and SolarCity have reached agreement on broad terms of a settlement to end their ongoing litigation, but according to The Arizona Republic, the deal would leave demand charges in place that were the lawsuit's impetus.
- The Arizona Republic reports the deal includes SRP buying a 25 MW battery from Tesla, SolarCity's parent company and develop an incentive program to encourage residential batteries and a new demand charge pilot.
- SolarCity sued Salt River Project in 2015 when the public power utility raised rates and instituted a new charge for solar customers that added $50/month to their bills, hurting the value proposition of the rooftop systems.
The fine print has yet to be worked out and Tesla must still approve the deal, but the settlement could end a lawsuit the U.S. Supreme Court was preparing to consider and give customers more of a reason to install batteries.
Under the broad terms, SRP would purchase a 25 MW battery and install it at the Agua Fria Generating Station. The utility would also launch an incentive program rewarding customers for installing storage, and a new demand charge pilot would be created. However the utility's solar demand charge, which launched the lawsuit, will remain in place.
If the settlement is approved, the two sides would move to dismiss all litigation and pay their own attorneys' fees.
In its lawsuit, SolarCity claimed the utility is exerting monopoly control over the market to drive out competition from distributed generation. Last year, the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals ruled SolarCity's case could move forward, prompting the utility's appeal the the Supreme Court.
The demand charges, adding on average $50 to a solar customer's bill, caused installations in Arizona to plummet immediately following the change. SRP has about 17,000 solar customers, and has seen an increase in solar installations recently despite the charges.
Arizona supports about 9,000 solar jobs and growth of the industry is a major issue in net metering cases around the country. After December 8, 2014, applications for rooftop solar in the SRP territory fell 96%. However, the Arizona Republic reports the utility picked up about 1,700 new solar customers last year.
- The Arizona Republic SRP settlement with Tesla could make solar, batteries more affordable
Follow Robert Walton on Twitter