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.