Salt River Project Agricultural Improvement and Water District (SRP) has gained a special kind of notoriety in the solar industry. In 2015 the utility killed the distributed solar market in its service area by imposing a demand charge on its residential customers who deploy solar.
Normally such charges are rejected by state regulators as too confusing and unpredictable for residential customers. However, SRP is not subject to regulation by the state of Arizona, as it is a cooperative – if a strange sort of one – whose members elect its management.
Especially those members who own a lot of land.
On Tuesday SRP saw the election of two more pro-residential solar candidates to its board, Corey Hawkey and Randy Miller, who replaced William Arnett and Wendy Marshall for two “at-large” seats.
This follows the election of two other pro-solar candidates to the SRP board in 2016, and now such candidates fill all four “at-large” seats, which are elected by a system of one landowner, one vote.
Solar advocates applauded this outcome.
“The two forward-looking, at-large candidates running on solar energy won with huge margins of the vote, defeating long-term incumbents who represented the status quo,” stated Pita Jaurez, spokesperson for Clean Energy for a Healthy Arizona.
The old guard stays on
However, 10 of the 14 board seats on SRP are not chosen on the one landowner-one vote principle, but instead by an archaic system of alloting votes in proportion to acreage owned. Pro-solar candidates Sheila Motomatsu, Jeffrey Grout and Dennis Burke ran for three of these seats as well, but all lost to incumbents.
Additionally, SRP has retained President David Rousseau and VP John Hoopes, who presided over the 2015 demand charge decision and were each elected unopposed to their third four-year terms.
It is unknown to pv magazine what the balance of the positions on the board on distributed solar is at this time. However, change may be slow to come to an institution which is governed on a system of de facto control by large landowners.
SRP has also managed to avoid legal challenges that might cause it to mend its ways. In March the utility settled a lawsuit with Tesla over the imposition of the demand charge, by agreeing to certain conditions including the purchase of a 25 MW battery from the company.
And the demand charge remains.