Solar Panel Installation

The new rates would apply to customers who apply to connect new solar systems to the power grid after a final decision.

UPDATE April 24: The TEP/UES solar rate matter has been pulled from the Corporation Commission open meeting agenda for Thursday, April 26. 

After years of wrangling, the Arizona Corporation Commission will consider new rates for customers of Tucson Electric Power Co. and UES Electric who install rooftop solar panels at an open meeting in Phoenix on Thursday.

The new rates, including lower reimbursement for customers’ excess solar power production, would apply to customers who apply to connect new solar systems to the utility grid after a final decision by the commission, which could come at Thursday’s meeting.

Following a policy ruling by the commission last year to do away with net metering for solar customers, TEP and UES have proposed cutting the rate at which customers are credited for their excess power production, increasing solar meter fees and imposing new “grid access” charges.

Customers who already have installed solar or applied to connect a system before the Corporation Commission issues its final order will continue to get credit for their exported power at the full retail rate under net metering.

A Corporation Commission hearing judge has recommended a new solar export rate for excess power of 9.64 cents per kWh of usage for TEP — slightly higher the company proposal — compared with an average retail rate of 11.5 cents under net metering.

The new rates would be subject to annual reductions of up to 10 percent under the statewide policy approved last year.

The export rates are initially based on the wholesale price of power each utility gets from big, utility-scale solar farms.

For UES Electric, the judge backed an initial solar export rate of 11.5 cents per kWh, compared with an average retail rate of about 10.8 cents.

Though the judge also backed a higher monthly meter fee for solar customers, she rejected the utility’s rate-design proposals — including a new solar “grid-access charge” — ruling the plans were based on flawed cost studies and ordering TEP to file new plans based on further studies.

The Corporation Commission can accept, reject or amend the judge’s recommended order at Thursday’s meeting, which starts at 10 a.m. and will be live streamed on the commission’s website, azcc.gov.

Contact senior reporter David Wichner at dwichner@tucson.com or 573-4181. On Twitter: @dwichner. On Facebook: Facebook.com/DailyStarBiz

Senior reporter covering business and technology for the Arizona Daily Star/Tucson.com