The Arizona Corporation Commission is expected to decide the future of rooftop solar power in Tucson as it decides on an anti-solar proposal from Tucson Electric Power. The utility wants to make rooftop solar unaffordable by drastically increasing fees for solar customers. They say solar savings are cutting into their gargantuan profits which will grow even more after the Trump tax cuts. The utility’s proposal would saddle rooftop solar customers in Tucson with some of the highest fees in the country for an investor owned utility. TEP also wants to slash the amount is pays to rooftop solar customers for the extra electricity they send back to the grid.
It doesn’t have to be this way. In the Phoenix area, Arizona Public Service reached an agreement with the rooftop solar industry. It’s not perfect but it leaves solar viable in that part of the state. If TEP gets its way, rooftop solar would not be viable and devalued so much it would be worth 25 percent less compared to Phoenix. Why does Phoenix deserve more solar than Tucson?
The impact of the TEP plan would reduce rooftop solar installations in Tucson by 50 percent to 70 percent according to industry estimates. As a state senator and the ranking member of the Natural Resources, Energy and Water Committee, I understand how rooftop solar has revolutionized the way we buy and consume energy. That revolution is just getting started. And why is this so important? Because when a monopoly utility increases its rates, the only remedy you have is to cut costs by going solar.
I hope the Corporation Commission will see TEP’s request for what it is: an attempt to regulate a competitor out of business and an attempt to limit electricity options for ratepayers. Rooftop solar allows customers relief from utility rates that continue to rise. It’s not only good for the consumer, it also creates jobs. The impact to the environment is obvious. More rooftop solar means less reliance on fossil fuels.
A few weeks ago the Corporation Commission, at the urging of Commissioner Andy Tobin, hit the pause button on the TEP request in order to study it further. That was the prudent thing to do and Tobin should be applauded for his willingness to listen. You can have your say by contacting the Corporation Commission.
Solar supporters have established a hotline to connect you to the commissioners. If you want to save solar energy in Tucson, call 520-729-4490. If you want regulators to uphold your right to save money on your electric bill call 520-729-4490. If you want to help the environment, create jobs, and preserve energy options call 520-729-4490.
Tucson is blessed with an abundance of sunshine. It would be a horrible irony if a utility monopoly were allowed to steal that abundance from its customers to increase its already hefty profits.
I hope the Corporation Commission will do the right thing with any changes being gradual not radical. And we hope you will encourage them to do so.