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Amid Scrutiny, APS Withdraws Request To Raise Fees On Solar

Arizona Public Service is backing down from an effort to increase fees for rooftop solar. The move comes after intense scrutiny over the net-metering case in front of the Arizona Corporation Commission and possible ties between APS and several commissioners.

According to APS, the case had become “political theater” filled with “attacks” and “distortion” advanced by the solar industry. As a result, the public utility filed a motion to withdraw its proposed rate hike of about $15 a month for those with rooftop solar panels hooked up to the grid.

Instead, the utility would like a hearing to determine the real cost of serving customers with solar and to what extent that’s impacting other APS residential customers.

In its filing, the company requested the scope of the hearing remain limited to only this fact finding and "not address other values of solar."

"In other words, this proceeding would transition into a hearing with the goal of establishing important policy findings that guide subsequent APS proceedings before the Commission," wrote APS attorney Thomas Loquvam.

APS said the findings could then be used to inform the next rate case, which is expected to take place in 2016.

Recently, two former regulators and a solar company filed two separate motions calling for commissioners Doug Little, Tom Forese and Bob Stump to be disqualified from the net-metering decision because of alleged bias. Attorney Hugh Hallman, who filed those motions, said all of these matters should be adressed in a full rate case.

"There's no good way to do this in a discrete, tiny way when you are eliminating all the connected issues," Hallman said Friday afternoon after learning of the APS motion.

The solar industry trade group representing many of the companies with a stake in this issue also support any discussion about net metering to happen during a full rate case.

Court Rich, who represents The Alliance for Solar Choice, said the proposed rate hike was unconstitutional in the first place because such a decision must be made in the context of a full rate case. Rich was critical of the APS request to hold a hearing only dealing with the way rooftop solar impacts other residential customers.

"APS comes out and says, 'Well, let's look at the negatives, but let’s not look at the positives. How is that an honest conversation?” said Rich.

It would be a stretch to characterize this recent APS decision as a big victory for rooftop solar. Net metering remains an unsettled, divisive issue and that tone will likely continue as the issue heads before the commission again.

Updated 9/28/2015 at 10:18 p.m.

Will Stone grew up with the sounds of public radio. As a senior field correspondent, he strives to tell the same kind of powerful stories that got him into the business — whether that means trudging through some distant corner of the Sonoran Desert or uncovering an unknown injustice right down the street. Since joining the KJZZ newsroom in 2015, he has covered political scandals, fights over the future of energy, and efforts to care for some of Arizona’s most vulnerable communities. His pieces have also aired on national programs like Morning Edition, All Things Considered, Here & Now and Marketplace. Before coming to KJZZ, he reported for public radio stations in Nevada and Connecticut. Stone received his degree in English literature from Haverford College, where he also wrote about the arts and culture scene in Philadelphia. After graduating, he interned at NPR West in Culver City, California, where he learned from some of the network’s veteran reporters and editors. When he doesn’t have a mic in hand, Stone enjoys climbing mountains, running through his central Phoenix neighborhood and shamelessly promoting his cat, Barry.