Arizona Senate controls the fate of Phoenix anti-solar rate

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In a court decision that gave hope that Phoenix-area utility Salt River Project’s anti-solar rates would soon be abolished, a federal appeals court ruled that the utility is subject to federal antitrust laws. The utility’s rates increased costs for rooftop solar customers by 65%, and resulted in a decrease in rooftop solar applications of 50-96%, the court found.

But now, the Arizona legislature is poised to rescind the state’s law favoring competition in electricity generation and supply, a law that was central to the appeals court’s antitrust finding. In a bipartisan vote, the Arizona House of Representatives last week passed a bill to end that competition, and the Arizona Senate is ready to vote on a bill that could do the same.

Arizona SEIA, the state affiliate of the national solar association SEIA, has opposed both bills. If they become law, SRP’s anti-solar rate would “very likely” be allowed to stand, the group said in a letter to state legislators.

That’s because, as the appeals court said, if Arizona law aimed to displace competition in electricity generation and supply, SRP, as a political subdivision of the State of Arizona, could be entitled to “state-action immunity.” SRP was established by state law as an agricultural improvement district.

Arizona SEIA’s letter said that customers choose solar for many reasons, such as favoring clean energy, resiliency, or saving money. “No matter why you might favor rooftop solar, it is a choice that each family should get to make for themselves, and the utilities should not be able to put their thumbs on the scale to make it so burdensome to adopt that families are prevented from making the decision.”

Vote Solar and free market advocates have also registered their opposition to the bill.

The Arizona House bill, HB 2101, passed by a bipartisan vote of 37-21. The Arizona Senate bill, SB 1631, has passed in committee and is ready for a floor vote.

Arizona is one of the sunniest states in the US, and has the nation’s fourth-highest amount of small-scale PV relative to its population.

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