In an Oct. 14 opinion piece in the Arizona Daily Star, Pima County Supervisor Richard Elias and Barry Goldwater Jr. recite the same stale, outrageous argument that utility companies like TEP are trying to “kill” rooftop solar with punitive new charges. In truth, TEP is seeking modest updates that would preserve generous benefits for private solar arrays while addressing inequities that increase costs for other customers.
Under TEP’s proposal, typical residential customers could still save more than $90 per month on their TEP bills by going solar, a generous incentive that would allow rooftop solar to both survive and thrive.
If anything, TEP’s measured proposal doesn’t go far enough. Solar customers would still pay only a fraction of the costs TEP incurs to serve them, even though they depend on the company’s grid 24/7 and rely on TEP’s generating resources to meet their energy needs 30 percent to 70 percent of the time.
Critics of TEP’s proposal are ignoring five years of analysis, debate and evidentiary hearings leading up to the Arizona Corporation Commission’s “Value of Solar” decision earlier this year. In that lengthy, professional and thoughtful process, involving dozens of active participants and hundreds of consumer commenters, the ACC concluded the following:
1 Owing to current rate designs, rooftop solar customers fail to pay a fair share of the cost-based portion of grid-related fixed costs.
2 Failure to pay a fair share, cost-based portion of grid-related fixed costs results in cost shifts from rooftop solar customers onto non-solar customers.
3 Rooftop solar customers are considered “partial requirements customers” because they both produce power for self-consumption and access the grid to buy power from the utility to meet their needs.
4 To mitigate against continued cost shifts, the net metering method of compensating rooftop solar generation exports to the grid is replaced by new methods for valuing solar to achieve a gradual and fair transition from net metering.
5 To protect existing rooftop solar customers’ investments, they are grandfathered under their original compensation and rate structures.
So, TEP and other Arizona utilities are moving forward to implement the new methods for valuing the contributions of rooftop solar power while balancing interests of all their customers – solar and non-solar. Under the TEP proposal now before the ACC, new solar customers would continue to enjoy healthy monthly bill savings while being compensated for their export power at three times the price TEP can purchase the same renewable power at wholesale. We need to ask why solar installers can’t make these savings and level of subsidies work in their business models.
Nevertheless, many solar advocates like Elias and Goldwater Jr. view any attempt to reduce the cost shifts and improve fairness in recovering fixed grid costs as a nefarious attempt to kill rooftop solar.
By ignoring the facts, making such an unfounded claim is easy.