Commentary: Protect the right to go solar against bad utility rate hike proposals

Kris Mayes

Kris Mayes

This summer, Arizona's largest utilities are making proposals before the Arizona Corporation Commission that would kill Arizona's rooftop solar energy industry, something we all must oppose.

Arizona Public Service Company (APS) and Tucson Electric Power Company (TEP) are proposing to impose "demand charges" on their customers.

The utilities are also asking the ACC to allow them to slash net metering, the policy that requires utilities to pay solar homeowners a fair price for the electricity that homeowners produce on their rooftops and put back on the grid for everyone to use.

This comes just as Arizonans are going solar at a record pace, and our state has assumed a leadership position nationally in rooftop solar.

Today, more than 65,000 Arizonans have adopted solar on their homes, which has saved all ratepayers millions of dollars, as solar energy prevents the need for additional expensive utility infrastructure.

Rooftop solar also provides quality jobs for Arizonans. More than 450 companies have now created 10,000 good paying jobs in the solar industry, something we should celebrate and promote in a state that has struggled to make its way out of the Great Recession.

Solar energy has also become a tool for schools and municipalities all across our state to reduce their energy bills and re-direct that money toward teachers, school supplies and badly needed infrastructure repairs.

Finally, as one of the few sources of energy that don't require water, solar saves precious water supplies in a state affected by drought.

We know what happens when utilities implement demand charges and slash net metering: In Arizona, when a utility not regulated by the ACC implemented demand charges on solar homeowners, the ability of homeowners to affordably adopt solar energy systems in that service territory virtually came to an end. In Nevada, when the state's largest utility and the Nevada Public Utilities Commission ended net metering as we know it, solar companies were forced to lay off thousands of workers and shutter their operations.

As I travel the state talking to Arizonans about the value and importance of rooftop solar energy, two things become clear: The vast majority of our residents want Arizona to assume its rightful place as the nation's number one place for rooftop solar energy, and Arizonans want us to reap the thousands of jobs that come with a focus on solar. Consumers don't want demand charges, cuts to net metering and other unwise plans that would take us backward.

Please join me in urging the ACC to oppose these bad utility policies that undermine solar by going to www.solarstrongamerica.com.

Kris Mayes is a former Arizona Corporation Commissioner and chairman of Solar Strong America.

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