April 30th, 2016 by Glenn Meyers
Arizona solar advocates and lawmakers have negotiated a compromise, leading them to drop competing solar ballot initiatives to amend the state’s constitution.
A ceasefire between SolarCity and Arizona Public Service Company has the two sides agreeing to mediate over how solar customers are compensated for the electricity they produce.
For background, solar advocates crafted The Energy Freedom Act, which would have amended the state constitution to prevent regulators from lowering current net metering rates until 2022. The initiative was filed by Yes on AZ Solar, a political action committee funded by SolarCity.
Responding to this initiative, state Sen. Debbie Lesko (R) drafted a ballot initiative that would have prevented state regulators from directing utilities to pay more than the wholesale rate for excess energy exported to the grid by distributed generation.
At the heart of the conflict was how to properly compensate electricity generated from residential solar without creating a cost burden for either side. Lesko’s referendum would have let voters decide if utilities should pay less than retail rates for electricity they receive from rooftop PV.
The agreement between the two sides has created an opportunity for settlement talks to preserve solar with buy-in from APS. In response, SolarCity withdrew its petition drive to put its own measure on the ballot, which would have barred utilities from charging solar customers based on their peak demand, rather than their overall usage.
The deal was announced less than an hour after the Arizona Senate took steps to send the electorate measures mandating separate rates for rooftop solar users and regulating solar leasing companies as utilities, in response to SolarCity’s initiative that sought to mandate utilities to pay net metering customers with rooftop solar panels to pay the full retail price for power they send back to the grid.Arizona’s head utility regulator expressed relief for this conflict being over for now.
“It would have been a pretty ugly dispute between the ballot measures over the summer,” Arizona Corporation Commission (ACC) Chairman Doug Little said.
Former ACC Chairwoman and solar advocate Kris Mayes said both parties had hired mediators for the settlement talks in a 10-day window to come up with an agreement that both sides could present to the Arizona Corporation Commission (ACC).
APS is scheduled to file for a rate increase with the Commission in June which seeks to change the way solar customers pay for electricity.
Image via Shutterstock
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