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Net Metering Vote Allows Marginal Rate Increase For Solar Power Customers

Arizona Corporation Commissioner Susan Bitter Smith is seen during the live online broadcast of the hearing on Tuesday.

Arizona Public Service didn’t get what it asked for from the Arizona Corporation Commission. The state’s largest utility asked the commission to increase the amount it charges the owners of rooftop solar units, and the request was opposed by the solar industry.

APS says there are about 18,000 homes with solar units. The fight was over the issue of net metering, the process by which APS credits those customers for excess power generated. 

APS wanted to lower the rate, which would have raised the homeowners' monthly bill. Solar industry representatives testified that lowering the rate would kill the demand for roof top panels and cripple the industry.

After two days of hearings, the commission voted to raise the bills but only by about $5, a fraction of what the utility wanted. 

Jeff Goldner of APS said it wasn’t good enough.

"Our job is to balance the impacts of this net metering policy, 1.1 million of our customers, not just to our solar customers," Goldner said. "They’re an important part of our constituency but they’re not the only constituency, and we are very concerned about the fiscal impact of this policy.

Commissioner Gary Pierce was one of the two votes against the plan. He favored a more generous settlement for APS.

"I don’t believe anyone goes away from this happy. I believe they are happy it’s over," Pierce said.

Commission Chairman Bob Stump said this was not the final time net metering would be dealt with.

"Of course the heavy lifting isn’t over. And that indeed will occur at the next rate case," Stump said.

The next full-blown rate hearing for APS is scheduled for mid-2015.

KJZZ’s News Director Al Macias is part of an elite class of trusted, veteran journalists who have covered Arizona news for more than 30 years.Macias helps oversee daily operations for the KJZZ newsroom and Fronteras: the Changing America Desk. This is second nature for Macias, who is a National Association of Television Arts and Sciences Silver Circle Society member and an inductee of the Society of Professional Journalists Order of the Silver Key Society.Macias began serving the KJZZ news team in October 2010, helping the station launch Fronteras: The Changing America Desk as the project's managing editor. He became the news director in January 2015. Macias, who has an extensive television background, is helping Fronteras Desk reporters disseminate reports using a multimedia platform that includes radio, web, video and social media tools to engage listeners across the globe.He also is no stranger to building a news team from the ground up. Macias was part of the management team that launched the KNXV newsroom in 1994 and oversaw its growth from a staff of twenty to more than sixty in less than a year. Additionally, he served in managerial roles at KPNX from 1981-1994 and as an assignment editor and manager for KTVK.During his television career, Macias won two Rocky Mountain Emmy Awards for spot news coverage and public service programming.Macias takes great pride in his public service work, as well. He is a founding board member of the Arizona Latino Media Association and is part of the Raul H. Castro Institute Advisory Committee. In addition, he served Maricopa County’s communications department and spent time as a Partnership Specialist with the U.S. Census Bureau.A Phoenix native, Macias earned a journalism degree from Arizona State University. He has been married since 1978 and has two adult daughters.