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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.

Al Macias, former KJZZ news director, is part of an elite class of trusted, veteran journalists who have covered Arizona news for more than 30 years.