Arizona Public Service Co. will file a request today with the Arizona Corporation Commission to add a surcharge to customers who generate their own electricity with solar panels. The power company's proposal has two possible formulas to use for the extra charge, which are estimated to add between $50 to more than $100 to a solar customer's monthly bill. The reason is to offset the costs of maintaining the power grid.
APS officials said solar customers are not paying enough for the services they get from the power grid, which enables them to get electricity at night when solar panels don’t generate power and balance their household energy needs during the day when their solar-panel output and home demand don’t match up.
The change would only affect new solar customers, not those that already have solar on their homes, and would significantly reduce the savings associated with generating power using rooftop systems.
On the one hand, maintaining the power grid is a necessary service. But then you look at the details of the power company's reasoning. The system in place now allows solar customers who generate more electricity than they need to send electricity to the power company, which pays for it in kind, by crediting customers on their electric bills. For each kilowatt hour a solar customer sends to the grid, they are discounted one kilowatt hour from their bill. Therefore, generating extra power during the daylight hours helps to pay for a household's use of power at night.
APS charges its customers between about 9 cents to 17 cents per kilowatt-hour of electricity, with prices increasing the more electricity a customer uses. Solar customers tend to be more affluent, with larger homes that use more electricity, so the average price they pay for a kilowatt-hour is about 15.5 cents, APS officials said. That means that when they get a credit for a kilowatt-hour of electricity from solar, the credit is worth about 15.5 cents.
APS officials said it is unfair to pay those customers a 15.5-cent credit when the utility could contract to buy solar power for 8 to 9 cents per kilowatt-hour from large power plants.
So the more they charge a customer, the higher the reimbursement rate, and that's not fair? The idea behind charging more for higher-use customers is already solved for solar users, because they take less power from the grid. Isn't that what the graduated pricing is supposed to encourage? What do you think? Read more about the case at AZ Central. Link -via Simply Left Behind
(Image credit: Flickr user Dominic Alves)