Less than one year after raising the ire of solar-power advocates by imposing feed-in tariffs on homeowners with rooftop installations, the Arizona Public Service Co. has come up with a completely different proposal that is likely to generate just as much opposition.
Instead of taxing solar, the utility now wants to provide it. While that seems to be a complete reversal for the utility, the real problem lies in the way Arizona Public proposes to go about it and, like the first controversy, how it proposes to pay for it.
In July, Arizona Public filed a request for regulatory approval with the Arizona Corporation Commission (ACC) to install panels on residences throughout its territory and pay homeowners a monthly rental fee for using their roofs.
The homeowners would not directly receive the power generated from the panels. Instead, the power would flow back into the grid. The utility argues that this will benefit all of its customers by helping stabilize the grid and improve efficiency.
Last November, Arizona Public levied a charge of $0.70 per kilowatt on homes with solar installations. It justified the charge by asserting that it needed to make up for the lost revenue from residential generation, while its costs to maintain the grid remain unchanged. It argued that homeowners with solar were essentially being subsidized by other ratepayers.
In this newest maneuver, the utility wants to install 20 megawatts of panels on 3,000 homes. It proposes to pay the homeowners $30 per month for 20 years. Additionally, it wants to recoup the cost of installation—$57–$70 million—by passing the cost onto all of its ratepayers.
Arizona Public wants the ACC to rule on the proposal, so it can get started with installations next year.