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Phoenix, AZ April 8, 2015. APS appears to have walked back on public statements to wait until its next rate case to request a 321% increase in solar fees by asking the Arizona Corporation Commission to approve the fee now and without a public hearing. Public statements by APS say that the increase is needed and is related to the 2013 ACC decision (Docket E-01345A-13-0248), which passed without a formal hearing, that allowed APS to tack an average $5 monthly charge onto the bills of APS solar customers. Unfortunately, none of the APS statements provide any data that substantiates their claims or the request. Commissioners are again being asked to take the utility’s word for it. The utility asks that the change take effect on new customers beginning August 1, 2015.
Arguing that what is past is prologue, APS says that even with the $5 fee, 2014 was a “record year" for solar in their territory and they imply that trend will continue. Unfortunately, missing from the APS filing or subsequent media coverage is the fact that since SRP announced its $50/month estimated fee, installation requests have crashed; dropping from a few hundred applications per month to a few dozen. Also missing from APS’s filing or media coverage is the fact that solar applications in their territory are down 10% from 2013. That means approximately 780 fewer property owners applied to put solar on their home or business in 2014 than 2013—likely a direct result of the APS solar fee.
The truth is there really aren’t a record number of applications, as APS wants the ACC and the public to believe. The truth is there is no proof that past levels of installations will continue in APS territory if the new fees are imposed and there is no truth to the claim that 2014 was a “record year” for solar installations when they are down 10%. The truth is while solar installations are way up in the rest of the country, they are clearly heading downward in the nation’s sunniest state.
APS’ request distorts the docket record. They state that the 2013 decision followed a “Robust Process,” and that, “no party sought a rehearing.” The process was robust only if “robust” means that no one else was permitted to offer sworn testimony and there was no cross examination of witnesses or of APS’ sworn testimony. In addition, multiple motions to dismiss that request and force it to be heard in a proper rate case were never even considered. This was not a “robust process” by any stretch of the imagination.
AriSEIA complained about the lack of transparency and called for a formal hearing in its November 12, 2013, letter to the Commission—before the decision was made:
“The problem is that the questions in the above referenced letter ask the parties to introduce more unsworn and un-admitted ‘testimony’ and ‘evidence’ into a record lacking any foundation or legally admitted evidence of any kind…In an effort to assuage any concerns that the solar industry is merely trying to “kick the can” on this issue, AriSEIA wishes to reiterate that it would be happy if the Commission reopened APS’s last rate case to deal with this issue immediately. Such an action could reopen the rate case to deal only with rate design issues and do so swiftly. Importantly, this would provide a landing pad for as-of-yet-absent due process on this important issue and would offer an opportunity to deal with any issue with broad rate design changes aimed at the utilities’ issues related to cost recovery instead of narrowly and quite arbitrarily focusing on solar only.”
The statement that, “no party sought a rehearing,” is misleading and disingenuous because no party would have had a reason to request a rehearing since the agreement was that no increases would be sought until the next rate case. That APS will spin this lack of a request as a consensus is insulting to the Commission, to those who participated in the process and to those in the public who took the utility at their word.
While this request targets only new APS solar customers signing up after August 1, 2015, APS has not stated that customers with systems installed before that date will not see similar fees imposed on them after the utility files and completes its next rate case.
Former Commission Chairperson Kris Mayes even tweeted her shock at the request and called APS’ request for the ACC to approve the increase by fiat and without a formal hearing “#offensive.”
AriSEIA encourages all of its members to write and call the Arizona Corporation Commission and demand a formal hearing and not rubber stamp the APS request.