State utility regulators today approved new fees for Arizona Public Service Co. customers that install grid-tied solar energy systems, in a decision that could ultimately affect solar customers in Tucson.
But the Arizona Corporation Commission on a split vote approved far less than APS requested, and the charges will apply only to customers who have signed up to install solar after Dec. 31.
After two days of often contentious debate, the commission decided on a 3-2 vote to impose a monthly fee of 70 cents for each kilowatt of solar-system capacity a customer owns, which translates to a charge of about $5 a month for a typical 7-kilowatt home solar system.
The charges are to be reviewed and may be changed after based on more detailed data in APS' next rate case.
APS has asked for changes to its so-called net metering rules that could have resulted in charges of $50 to $100 a month for the typical home solar customer. The utility contends that the charges are needed to assure that solar customers are bearing their fair share of fixed costs such as transmission.
But solar advocates argued that the extra charges could kill off the state's solar industry, and that APS' argument fails to recognize the value of solar to the utility grid.
TEP filed comments in the APS case, agreeing with the concept of recovering more fixed costs from solar customers, but the local utility has not filed any request to impose new solar fees.
Some 44 states allow some form of net metering, which allows customers to offset their bills with solar power and sell excess power to their local utilities.