Distributed solar grid access fee axed in Arizona

By William Driscoll

Arizona regulators have repealed a grid access charge that applied only to customers with distributed solar.

“Under state and federal law, a utility may not discriminate” against customers with distributed solar, said a regulatory amendment that passed by a 3-2 vote.

Different treatment of solar customers must be justified “based on accurate data and consistently applied cost-allocation principles,” said the amendment, adding that the record in the rate case “contains no such evidence.”

The Solar Energy Industries Association, which filed over 300 pages of testimony in the rate case, “was able to prove that solar customers in Arizona pay their fair share of grid costs and do not introduce additional costs to other customers,” said Sara Birmingham with SEIA. The grid access charge had been approved by state regulators nearly a decade ago, she said.

Solar customers of Arizona Public Service contribute more to the utility’s cost recovery than non-solar residential customers served under two of the utility’s rate classes, tweeted Ben Inskeep with EQ Research.

The grid access fee was “making it harder for Arizona families and businesses to choose solar,” said Yara Marin with Vote Solar, which had filed over 200 pages of testimony.

The Arizona Corporation Commission amendment noted that “the recent Commission elimination of net metering for solar customers was in part intended to address a perceived cost shift from solar to non-solar customers.” The amendment added that “in that light,” the grid access charge “amounts to a penalty for customers who provide substantial public benefit in the form of private investments in local, pollution-free energy.”

Utility fees on solar have also been reversed in Kansas, Nevada and Massachusetts, said Inskeep.

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