Arizona Corporation Commission Eliminates Unfair Tax on Solar Customers

By Yara Marin on November 3, 2021

Cross-posted from Vote Solar

The Arizona Corporation Commission voted to eliminate Arizona Public Service (APS) company’s “grid access charge” Wednesday in a vote of 3-2, ending the unfair practice of charging solar customers a discriminatory, fixed fee. Vote Solar and Solar United Neighbors opposed the unlawful fee in Exceptions to the Recommended Order and Opinion and in comments, and supported Commissioner Kennedy’s Amendment No. 11, to eliminate the grid access charge.

“Monopoly utilities should not be making it harder for Arizona families and businesses to choose solar, and that is exactly what a grid access charge does,” said Yara Marin, Regional Director, Interior West at Vote Solar. “We’re pleased that the commission voted to end this unfair and unlawful tax on the sun, particularly at this critical moment for our growing economy as we encourage private investment in a clean, reliable grid.”

Federal law requires that charges imposed only on solar customers, such as the grid access charge, be based on accurate data and consistent costing methodology; and they must also apply to other similar APS customers. Arizona law further requires that rates be just and reasonable, and it prohibits the Commission from granting any preference or advantage or from discriminating in any respect. Vote Solar argued that the grid access charge did not comply with these requirements.

“APS admitted that it ‘does not track costs’ uniquely associated with rooftop solar. That fact, in addition to significant errors in APS’s cost-of-service study, which overallocated costs to solar customers, clearly demonstrated that the grid access charge is discriminatory and unlawful,” said Marta Darby, Senior Attorney at Earthjustice, which represented Vote Solar in the rate case.

In fact, recent studies have shown that deploying local solar and batteries at scale is the most affordable way to fight climate change and build our electricity system. Rooftop solar customers in Arizona and across the country are not only saving on their monthly bill, but they are helping to reduce their neighbors’ bills as well. Now, with the grid access charge removal expected to be finalized soon, rooftop solar will be even more affordable.

“This decision is a win for Arizonans, whether they have solar or not,” said Bret Fanshaw, Solar United Neighbors Arizona Program Director. “We’re pleased the ACC voted to end this unjustified fee and saw the benefits that can be reaped from solar when utilities don’t put barriers in place. When more people go solar, it lowers energy costs, creates more local jobs, and generates additional economic development.” Solar United Neighbors was not a party to the rate case, but SUN generated comments to the Commission in opposition to the solar fee from more than 100 solar owners and supporters.