Unintentional snafu could confuse Arizona solar customers

Arizona Public Service (APS), Arizona’s largest utility, is rushing to reassure its solar customers that their net-metering rates will not change next year despite somewhat confusing inserts they’ve recently received in their bills.

A report in The Arizona Republic by Ryan Randazzo details that a problem in the utility’s billing department included flyers in solar customers’ bills about the new rate plans APS customers will have to choose in May as part of a Arizona Corporation Commission-approved APS rate hike of $100 million is implemented.

Here’s the thing: Solar customers won’t be affected by the rate hikes, and APS is concerned the accidental inclusion of rate-change information could confuse its more than 77,000 customers, according to the report.

Thankfully, APS has owned up to its mistake and has said it will not allow solar customers to change rate plans based on the confusing information. Spokespeople for the company say the bill inserts were included as an oversight, and solar customers who already made the switch will be allowed to return to their grandfathered net-metering rate.

The mistake was just the latest twist in a turbulent year for the solar industry in Arizona, which thought perhaps rooftop solar in the state was dead after the Arizona Corporation Commission (ACC)  slashed compensation rates. The ensuing uncertainty in the rooftop solar market concerning payback time for rooftop customers slowed the rooftop market to a crawl temporarily, installers told pv magazine at the time.

But APS and the solar industry negotiated a more equitable agreement, which they reached in March. It included the grandfathering provisions the solar industry sought. In addition, consumers who have solar interconnected to the APS grid by February will also qualify for the grandfathered net-metering rate.

After February, the compensation rates for exported power under the Arizona’s successor policy to net metering will be tied to a resource-comparison proxy (RCP) — essentially the cost of utility-scale solar. This will serve the basis for the initial DG export rate in rate-cases currently before the commission, and a negotiated settlement sets the current rate at $0.129 per kilowatt-hour, which will be adjusted over time to reflect the RCP at the time.

This story was edited at 10:13 am on 11/20/17 to clarify that the $0.129 per kWh rate is the initial rate that will adjust over time.