After months of discussion and debate about the rates charged to solar-energy customers, the Arizona Corporation Commission began a two-day public hearing in Phoenix on November 13 with the intention of deciding what many consider to be the fate of solar in Arizona.
The hearings arose from the question of whether rooftop-solar customers should pay more to Arizona Public Service Co. for using solar panels.
According to a statement from APS, the company asked the Corporation Commission to consider two proposals. The first is similar to the current plan, with a new monthly charge for first-time solar customers on the APS grid. The second proposal would give customers a choice between the first plan and a different monthly charge.
Outside the Corporation Commission building, near Washington Street and 12th Avenue, more than 500 people gathered Wednesday to protest the APS proposals.
“What APS is proposing is putting a discriminatory charge on people’s bills,” said Keally DeWitt, a representative for the Alliance for Solar Choice and one of the organizers of the protest. “Meaning that any sort of savings you would recognize, or any sort of financial benefit that you would get from solar, is erased.”
APS’ current solar-energy system uses net metering, DeWitt said. The system works in a similar way to rollover minutes on a cellphone: When customers produce more power from their solar panels than they need, that energy is put back onto the public grid and sold to other utility customers. The utility then gives the customer credit, which goes toward the next month’s electricity bill.
Consequently, solar-power customers who still end up using the utility grid at times when solar isn’t viable, such as at night, end up paying less for the grid compared with customers who don’t use solar power, according to APS. The company considers this unbalanced.
The protesters asked that no “discriminatory charge” be placed over rooftop-solar bills and wanted the current system to be kept in place, DeWitt said.
Near the entrance of the Corporation Commission building, a line of chairs were placed for people waiting to testify before the commission. Inside, the maximum occupancy of the building had been filled and security was directing spectators to an overflow room at the House of Representatives building five blocks west.
By noon, at least 100 people had spoken to the Corporation Commission members, about half of those registered to do so. Each speaker was given three minutes to address the members, the majority opposing the APS proposals.
A decision from the five commission members regarding the APS proposals is expected to be reached after this hearing.
Source: Downtown Devil