If solar power makes sense anywhere, it’s in always-sunny Arizona, where record numbers of homeowners are buying or leasing PV systems to offset their energy bills. Unfortunately, a new surcharge on solar panel owners amounting to about $50 a month, regardless of how much energy is fed back into the grid, basically offsets much of the savings homeowners gain from going solar, reports ThinkProgress.
The surcharge will affect customers of the Salt River Project (SRP), one of the country’s largest public utilities, and despite over 500 protesters showing up in opposition to the surcharge, 12 of the 14 directors voted in favor of the surcharge and a 3.9% rate increase. SRP did agree to grandfather in some 15,000 existing solar panel owners for 20 years, keeping their bills surcharge-free for the next couple of decades. But with an estimated 500 installation requests per month coming in for SolarCity alone, clean power advocates are up-in-arms over a proposal that ensures higher profits for utilities, while stifling solar power adoption.
SolarCity CEO Lyndon Rive wrote a strongly-worded letter regarding the new surcharge, saying the fee is “unsupportable by any economic analysis” and that the “fundamental purpose of the plan is to undermine solar leasing companies in SPR territory.” SolarCity is suing over the fee, though it may have little or no affect. A similar measure was proposed by Arizona Public Service (APS), and while the proposed $50 fee was dropped to just $5, APS is now pushing for a $21 monthly fee.
The battle over rooftop solar is just warming up, and while SRP’s new fee is a setback for new solar customers, clean energy advocates are more than ready to fight back.