The Arizona Solar Energy Industries Association (AriSEIA) is a non-profit trade association representing local, national and international solar companies in the Arizona market. The group's focus is on education, professionalism and promotion of public policies that support deployment of solar technologies in Arizona.
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IMPORTANT: AriSEIA is an intervenor in this docket.
In a surprise move, Arizona Public Service (APS) filed a motion this past Friday to withdraw its proposed 400% increase in its charge on solar owners. Citing applications for rehearing by The Alliance for Solar Choice and two former ACC commissioners as the primary causes, APS withdrew its request.
While it backed off its request to more than quadruple the existing fees, the utility took the chance to lash out at the rooftop solar industry for not wanting “to have a substantive discussion, especially not in a hearing there their representatives will be on the record and subject to cross examination.” APS appears to have forgotten it was the solar industry, including AriSEIA, who complained both in docket filings and during the informal hearing that led to Decision 74202 was that there was no formal hearing upon which to make any determination a cost shift actually existed. There was no opportunity to obtain sworn testimony and cross examination and therefore the process and the decision was flawed. This position was restated during the August 18, 2015 ACC meeting on this docket and has since been restated in requests for rehearings filed by TASC and former ACC Commissioners Jennings and Mundell. In fact, it has been APS that has consistently pushed for either no hearing or an abbreviated hearing that would not permit a full investigation. APS’s attempt to rewrite history now is belied by their own consistent push for little or no review of the issue.
APS also called on the Commission to narrow the scope of the hearing it called for in Decision 75251 and says, in essence, that if the ACC does what it wants, it won’t press for a reset of the Grid Access Charge. Unfortunately, the hearing APS now want is only on the costs of rooftop solar and it specifically wants the Commission to exclude any and all discussion of benefits. Their language is below (at link to the filing may be found at the bottom of this post).
In an effort to continue making such meaningful progress, and if it would be helpful to the Commission, APS recommends that the Commission order a more narrow hearing than contemplated in Decision No. 7525 1. This modified hearing would address and culminate in findings about (i) the cost to serve APS’s residential customers with and without solar; and (ii) how those costs are collected under APS’s current rate design. It should address cost of service issues only, and not address other values of solar. The value of solar is a means to guide resource planning, and should be addressed in separate, but related dockets. If a hearing about these issues can be promptly scheduled, and the facts found in this hearing be used to inform APS’s 2016 general rate case, APS would forgo its request to reset the Grid Access Charge. In other words, this proceeding would transition into a hearing with the goal of establishing important policy findings that guide subsequent APS proceedings before the Commission.
APS offers this alternative to the Commission so that progress can continue to be made on these critical policies despite efforts by TASC and others to confuse, distract and delay. A meaningful hearing, even if that hearing does not culminate in a reset of the Grid Access Charge, is an important step forward. Accordingly, APS requests that the Commission modify Decision No. 75251 pursuant to A.R.S. § 40-252 for the limited purpose of removing any consideration of resetting the Grid Access Charge. Then, the hearing in this matter can proceed with an evaluation of critical policy issues that will inform future APS proceedings. In order to effectively use any findings that emerge from this proceeding, APS urges that this inquiry conclude with a Commission decision on the findings by March 31, 2016.
For the record AriSEIA and other solar business and support groups have always welcomed a formal hearing on the merits of net metering with sworn witnesses, cross examination, and testimony based on facts and not anecdote or theory. We believe it is past time for Arizona to commission an independent third-party to commence a cost-benefit analysis regarding the value of rooftop solar like many other states have already done. We know that if the facts come out in a fair and honest manner, rooftop solar will be seen as a net benefit to all ratepayers. APS’s latest proposal is a step in the right direction, however, it appears designed more to produce a PR win for APS (a calculation of costs without consideration of benefits will obviously yield a negative value for solar) than a helpful data point to use going forward. ACC Staff and the Commissioners themselves have repeatedly indicated a desire to see a true independent cost-benefit study completed. Now is the time to do that.
AriSEIA encourages its members to communicate their thoughts on this issue to the Association’s Board and to contact their customers and the public to help press support for our industry. System owners may also join AriSEIA as part of the Solar Energy Coalition.
PHOENIX, AZ, August 19, 2015 - By a 3-2 vote, the Arizona Corporation Commission overturned the recommendations of an administrative law judge and its own staff and decided to initiate a hearing to consider an APS request to increase fees on new residential customers who utilize rooftop solar to produce some of their own energy. With this vote the Commission added another costly hearing though other utilities that had filed similar requests are including them in rate cases.
"We're clearly disappointed in yesterday's vote," said Mark Holohan, President of the Arizona Solar Energy Industries Association. "The proper way to look at rooftop solar’s value is for the Commission to lead and initiate a fair and objective study rather than relying on studies controlled by utilities. Instead the Commission’s decision will just be a replay of the rancor of 2013’s solar fight. We remain hopeful that the Commission will ultimately find that solar’s benefits for all ratepayers make such fees unwarranted.”
AriSEIA is especially concerned because the length of time for this contentious process results in it continuing into the time that APS files its next rate case in June of 2016. “The solar industry and customers considering solar are guaranteed to face two years of uncertainty about the future as we fight this increase and then again fight the additional fees and charges that will undoubtedly be proposed in the rate case. We are disappointed that the Commission will not provide ratepayers with the same level of regulatory certainty that the Commission provides utilities,” said Holohan.
Commissioners stated that they would not allow utilities’ tactics where they had announced that they would retroactively impose fees on customers after a specified date earlier than the Commission’s decisions.
AriSEIA believes the proper course of action would have been to follow the judge’s Recommended Opinion and Order (ROO) and examine this issue where all other similar issues are always examined, in a rate case.