Tesla receives broad support for Supreme Court case against Salt River Project

Tesla Energy, which has asked the U.S. Supreme Court to allow its anti-trust lawsuit against Arizona utility Salt River Project to proceed, has received widespread support by climate and energy-conservation groups in the form of an amicus (“friend of the court”) brief.

The Center for Biological Diversity, Food & Water Watch, NC WARN, the Energy Democracy Initiative at the Institute for Local Self-Reliance, Greenpeace USA and Friends of the Earth all weighed in on Tesla’s suit, saying the utility should not be immune from anti-trust liability. adding that what Tesla and the environmental groups say are Salt River’s anti-competitive policies are specifically designed to discriminate against rooftop solar users.

Last week, Tesla Energy Operations filed a brief with the U.S. Supreme Court, asking for it to uphold a lower court decision that would allow its antitrust lawsuit against Arizona utility Salt River Project Agricultural Improvement and Power District (better known as the Salt River Project, or SRP).

Tesla’s suit focuses on SRP’s imposition of a demand charge on its customers who adopt rooftop solar, which is says forces solar customers to pay approximately 65% more than before for electricity, in contrast with a rate increase of 3.9% for non-solar customers.

It also estimates that new applications for distributed solar in the utility’s service area fell by more than 96%.

The amicus brief supports Tesla’s contention that SRP should not be immune from antitrust liability, as well as suggesting SRP’s actions undermine the public-interest objectives utilities are supposed to serve.

It should be noted that as a member-run cooperative SRP is not subject to oversight by the Arizona Corporation Commission, which regulates investor-owned utilities in Arizona.

“The case for preserving an electric utility’s monopoly over electricity generation died with federally induced wholesale competition in the late 1970’s and with the recent advent of customer-owned and cost-effective rooftop solar,” said John Farrell, director of the Energy Democracy Initiative at the Institute for Local Self-Reliance. “The Supreme Court should permanently bury it in 2018.”