Tuesday, July 5, 2016

Tucson City Council May Fight TEP on Solar Energy Incentive Changes

Posted By on Tue, Jul 5, 2016 at 9:00 AM

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The Tucson City Council is expected to vote Wednesday on a resolution that opposes plans by Tucson Electric Power to do away with the state's metering rules for solar energy—something that tells the utility company to buy back, at full retail price, any excess energy that a solar customer did not use.

TEP filed a request with the Arizona Corporation Commission in March 2015, arguing the changes would make monthly rates more equal for all residential customers—most solar rooftops are connected to the communal electrical grid, and TEP argues rooftop solar customers are not paying their share for maintaining the grid and other services.

Current net metering rates were established by the Corporation Commission back in 2008. On average, a rooftop solar customer gets back around $100 back a month. With TEP's net metering reduction proposal, that would go down to about $80, according to TEP. But Dan Millis with the Sierra  Club's Tucson Chapter told me last year that the buy-back figure would be cut by half.

The proposal is also backed by Arizona Public Service and UniSource Energy Services, according to a Sierra Club press release.

The environmental advocacy group has argued that changing the net metering rules means one of the main incentives that push people to go solar would disappear. Without the metering, "you don't get credit for the surplus energy you produced," Millis told the Weekly in March 2015. If the proposal to lower that buy-back rate solidifies, getting panels will not be as good a deal in people's minds.

Millis said at the time that the solar industry's approximately $34 million in net benefit to Arizona Public Service electricity customers alone should outweigh the difference in rates. Not to mention all the job it has generated statewide.

The changes, which are still pending with the ACC, would not affect customers who got solar before June 1, 2015.

The City Council resolution says that if the net metering changes are approved they "may negatively impact the city through an increase in the city's energy costs, and reduce the city's ability to offset those costs by installing distributed solar systems. While city tax revenues will increase under TEP proposal, the net impact of the proposal to the city remains unknown."

Also, reducing economic incentives for solar system installations will have a negative impact on efforts to promote clean energy to reduce carbon emissions. It would also affect local solar installation jobs, the resolution says.

Read the entire resolution:  

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