Limited versions of Arizona utilities' rooftop solar programs approved

On December 18th, the Arizona Corporation Commission (ACC) approved Tucson Electric Power (TEP) and Arizona Public Service (APS) plans to implement rooftop solar programs in their service territories, with significant modifications to the original proposals.

Under the programs, APS and TEP will install PV modules on customer roofs and sell the electricity generated to the homeowners on a fixed monthly basis, similar to the offerings of third-party owned solar companies.

The utility programs will be open to homeowners regardless of FICO scores, but TEP’s program will require that customers pay US$250 up-front in administrative costs. APS’ program requires no deposit from homeowners.

A main limitation imposed by The ACC will be that APS and TEP are not allowed to use funds collected from other ratepayers to support the programs. Additionally, the volume of deployment will be limited to “pilot programs”, and TEP says that it will offer the program to 500-600 customers in 2015.

Both the Alliance for Solar Choice (TASC) and Tull Utilities Solar Won’t Be Killed (TUSK) fought APS in a previous regulatory battle at the ACC over fees on rooftop PV systems, and have applauded the ACC decision.

“While no compromise is perfect, this measure does mean utilities won’t be able to use their government guaranteed profits to drive a competitor out of business, a move that would be an anathema to core Republican principles,” stated TUSK Chair Barry Goldwater Jr.

TUSK notes that the ACC also required the utilities to use the information gathered from their rooftop PV deployment for research purposes, arguing that the commission “declined to investigate a proposal by TASC to conduct the same research for one tenth of the cost to ratepayers”.

TEP has stated that it will seek program participants in areas where PV will maximize benefits to the local electric grid, as well as looking for sites where PV modules can be positioned to match their output more closely to peak demand.

The utility notes that it would have used local businesses to install the system and alluded to TASC and its member companies as “out-of-state solar lease providers” in a press statement.

The ACC’s approval of the programs comes a week after Colorado regulators rejected a similar proposal by Xcel Energy.