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www.greenbuildermag.com 09.2013


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FIELD REPORT Arizona Utility Fights Solar Rooſt ops W


News About Sustainability Issues and Green Products


Since establishing net metering in 2009, Arizona’s solar installations have soared. But a powerful utility wants to turn back the clock.


HEN SOLAR PANELS were more expensive a few years ago, most utilities seemed ac- cepting, even friendly,


toward the technology—but now that they’re making headway into the main- stream market for electricity, some utili- ties have become adversarial. For exam- ple, Arizona Public Service (APS), the regulated utility in that state (essentially a monopoly) hopes to change the rules of net metering—the way they compensate consumers who are producing their own electricity at home. This incentive system has helped drive a major surge in solar installations in Arizona. Net metering works as a straight trade: if a customer uses 500 kW of power in a month, and creates 200 kW, she only pays for 300 kW. The utility argues that net metering isn’t fair, because it doesn’t compensate them for grid maintenance and other costs, and will push those grid costs onto people who don’t have solar. APS wants to reduce the amount solar owners can save on their utility bills from 70% to about 35%—essentially keeping more profi ts for themselves. According to energy analysts, however, the utility’s argument is overly simplifi ed. A high enough volume of solar panels could save infrastructure money by removing the need to build a new power plant, for example. And solar PV tends to operate most effi ciently in mid-day, at the same time that conventional power tends to be most expensive. So solar is actually generating power at a lower cost per kilowatt to the consumer. As the state with the second highest number of solar in- stallations in the U.S., it’s a booming sector, and the utility


has some powerful foes. For example, Barry Goldwater, Jr,, son of the famous conservative U.S. senator, is chairman of Tell Utilities Solar Won’t Be Killed (TUSK). “Choice means competition. Competition drives prices


down and the quality up,” Goldwater told Mother Jones. “The utilities are monopolies. They’re not used to competition. That’s what rooftop solar represents to them.” Utilities in other states, such as Edison International, it


should be noted, have been far less fearful of the coming age of renewables. Edison is actively investing in solar fi nancing


and projects. SOURCES: THE MOTLEY FOOL; MOTHER JONES; NEWS REPORTS


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