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California solar energy CEOs aim to confuse net metering issue, preserve profits

A recent guest opinion in the June 7 issue of the Arizona Capitol Times “Utility customers have option of installing rooftop solar systems,” authored by the CEOs of several California rooftop solar companies, got only two things right. One was the title.

Our customers do have the option of installing rooftop solar systems.

It’s an option we support, now and for the future. But to preserve that choice without driving up the rates of more than 1 million customers who do not have solar, we must address the current net metering rules.

That is the reason behind the stakeholder workshops we convened earlier this year to evaluate the issue, and that is what will drive the proposal we intend to file with the Arizona Corporation Commission in July.

For these California solar companies to claim otherwise is premature and inaccurate. There has been no discussion of eliminating the compensation rooftop solar customers receive for the power they produce. What we want is to compensate them fairly, and to avoid forcing other customers to pay more to subsidize solar.

Here’s what they are not telling you about net metering: They don’t want to change the current net metering incentive because a change would hurt their bottom lines.  The men who penned the column may portray their companies as altruistic and consumer-focused, but they are in Arizona to make money. In fact, despite already receiving millions of dollars in federal tax incentives, SolarCity has sued the federal government demanding additional subsidies from the 2009 Obama Stimulus Plan. The spin being employed by these companies is solely aimed at confusing the net metering issue rather than discussing it.

The Arizona Corporation Commission sets rates to be affordable for all Arizona customers and ensures Arizona’s complex electricity infrastructure is positioned to meet the state’s energy needs reliably and efficiently for years to come. This leads us to the one other thing the solar CEOs got right. The ACC ultimately needs to look out for the interests of all customers when it comes to net metering. Not the corporate interests of Sunrun, SolarCity, Sungevity and Clean Power Finance.  To be fair to all customers means that the current net metering rules cannot continue to unfairly shift costs from customers who choose to install rooftop solar systems to those that do not or cannot.

So let’s really look out for Arizona electricity customers. Let’s find a solution that allows customers to have the option of installing solar, compensates them fairly for the energy they produce, and does not raise rates or potentially impact future reliability for our customers.  You won’t hear that from these California solar leasing companies because that’s not their obligation — it’s ours.

— Mark Schiavoni is executive vice president, operations for Arizona Public Service Company (APS).


  1. Janet C. Tillotson

    APS is a Corporation. When Solar Companies are bad-mouthed by various Corporations one has to wonder about the validity of the complaints.

    The AZ Corporation Commission 9which 5 members are Republicans) have put into place a huge Company (Corporation) which has built a multi-million $$$ Incinerator in Gilbert which burns UNSORTED Trash to make electricity which further sullies our very poor AIR QUALITY, rather than expanding Solar and Wind–one has to wonder.

    Janet C. Tillotson, Scottsdale (Downwind from Gilbert!!)

  2. Stephen Etrinoch

    Always funny when one company talks about the profits of the other company. People that took on solar onto their homes did so with an understanding of the current laws, rules and incentives to do so. It is the power companies that have offered incentives for people to have their own rooftop solar, and even the APS web-site touts their grid-tied incentive. The reality is that net-metering and people producing more power than they consume does not benefit APS. Yes, solar companies benefit from being able to declare net-metering as a sales incentive, but those companies don’t gain or lose money from net-metering. It is the responsible, civiic -minded citizen that has solar installed and pays those costs that benefits from the current net-metering and it is the community that benefits from thousands of solar arrays that reduce the need to burn fossil fuels and buy power from out of state producers through the power company middle men, like APS and TEP.

  3. I pay $5.00 per month to subsidize private solar company’s who put panels on rich folks homes in Scottsdale. Its time that gravy train end.

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