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Non-solar customers should not have to subsidize solar users

Rep. Debbie Lesko

Sen. Debbie Lesko

Solar is undoubtedly a popular energy choice for consumers across Arizona. The topic comes up on a regular basis when talking with my constituents.

One thing that quickly becomes apparent as I talk with residents is that the industry is dealing with some growing pains, especially with consumer protection issues. Scores of constituents, many of whom are seniors who live on fixed incomes, relate their concerns to me: aggressive sales pitches that promise huge savings on their utility bills, leasing agreements that are hard to understand and difficulties in trying to sell their homes with long-term leases attached.

Those concerns fueled my introduction of SB1465, which requires solar companies to provide complete and standardized disclosures in their leasing and financing agreements. I am pleased that my colleagues on both sides of the aisle also saw the need to create some basic consumer protections and passed the legislation unanimously.

Another consumer issue I see as important is the impact of solar on the bills of customers who cannot afford solar systems, are unable to install panels, or choose not to switch to solar. Solar is growing rapidly in communities in my district and thus the issue of fairness is of growing importance. I must look out for the interests of all my constituents. It is a fundamental issue of fairness – non-solar customers should not pay higher electricity bills to subsidize customers who have rooftop solar.

The Arizona Corporation Commission (ACC) established two years ago that the method by which utilities compensate rooftop solar customers for their excess energy creates a cost shift between solar and non-solar customers. The ACC set an important precedent for solar policy in Arizona, and along with the modest grid access charge, protected the public interest by more fairly spreading costs among all customers.

Recently, SRP, which serves electricity customers in my legislative district, took steps it thought necessary to diminish the cost shift in its recent pricing process.  Now, the ACC has an opportunity to make progress on this issue for my APS constituents too.

I’ve watched as a growing number of customers and RUCO (the state’s utility consumer advocate) have asked the ACC to move forward on this issue before the cost shift becomes too difficult to manage effectively. On behalf of my constituents, I hope the ACC takes a close look at this issue soon.

—  Sen. Debbie Lesko is a Republican who represents Legislative District 21.

4 comments

  1. Instead of subsidizing private utility companies on the backs of those who use *less*, why don’t we ask those private companies to simply operate more efficiently? You know, like we do with schools? And DCS? And health care?

    What is it about the private utility companies that exempts them from these “tough decisions”?

    How can it possibly be a “free market” when a private company is allowed by our Republican government to surcharge customers who use less of their product?

    Arizona deserves better Republicans.

  2. Senator Lesko cites the Arizona Corporation Commission in repeating the assertion that there is a solar cost shift, but neither SRP, APS nor any of the other utilities around the country that have attempted to make this case have ever showed a practical or logical basis for this assertion. The shift is supposed to be over costs primarily for grid maintenance and administration. But if you check your electric bill, you’ll see charges separate from those for the energy itself. These represent the sensible and practical way to support grid costs, and that is indeed what all these utilities do. The cost-shift argument was cooked up among the big utility players as a way to trap more revenue from solar users. Consider that any household that reduces its electricity usage through conservation or simply by changing habits or having a child move out is functionally equivalent to one that reduces its billing by the same amount by supplementing with home-based renewable energy. Do we see the utilities approaching the ACC for a special charge to households that conserve because they’re shifting costs to other customers? Of course not. The cost-shift argument is now and has always been nonsense, but if the utilities have their way, the revenues they draw from solar-using customers will slow the adoption of solar statewide and significantly impair what should be a breakout industry for Arizona.

  3. I like Senator Lesko hope the ACC takes action on correcting the supposed “Cost Shift”. I just do not believe that any adjustment or fee added to anyone’s bill should be made outside of a rate case. At least that way everyone can see the data to make an informed decision not a guess. If you where to do it now based on what one company says I think that would be unfair practices wouldn’t it? Also what’s with utility’s saying they want to have fee’s be retro active. That would be like saying this “Let’s raise rates 150% and apply them to everybody starting 6 years ago”. If Fairness is the major concern then let’s get to a rate case now and get moving on all supposed “Cost Shift’s” not just the ones that help consumers reduce their on-site consumption. Also to Steven there is a fee already on everyone’s bill called Low Fixed Cost Recover “LFCR”. 70% of it is supposed to be to help offset Energy Efficiency revenues lost. the other 30% of it is to offset DG-Solar lost revenues.

  4. Debbie Lesko is a prime example of what is wrong with conservative politics today, and especially within Arizona. They’re fine with letting the free market regulate themselves and letting them make tons of money, but as soon as a major corporation whines that their profits are being reduced through the actions of the free market, they need to intervene and make sure their corporate sponsors are happy.

    This is unacceptable. Dirty energy is expensive. I do not have rooftop solar, but I don’t think that those people who have the foresight to install it should have to subsidize my energy bills. If it costs more, my bills should reflect that. What the company is REALLY afraid of is that we will figure out that solar panels are pretty much a necessity here, and that they will be priced out of business.

    I sincerely hope that everyone who has enough rooftop solar to power their homes gets one of Tesla’s new house batteries and unplugs from the grid in protest. Greedy corporations like SRP and APS need people to stand up to them and refuse to swallow the manure Lesko is trying to feed them.

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