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Arizona One Of Many States Debating Solar Net Metering

Solar panels
(KJZZ file photo)
Solar panels on a rooftop.

The debate over what Arizona Public Service should charge customers with rooftop solar panels may be paused.

Recently, the public utility filed a motion with the Arizona  Corporation Commission withdrawing its bid to raise the net metering charge, if the commission agrees to hold hearings focused solely on how solar shifts costs onto other APS customers. Still, state regulators are expected to take up the net metering issue next year during the next rate case.

Meanwhile, many states are in the midst of hashing out the same question as Arizona: How do you measure the costs and benefits of rooftop solar? APS argues net metering puts a demand on the grid that is not fully reflected in its current fixed fee, which amounts to about five dollars per month for the average residential customer. On the other hand, the solar industry cautioned raising that price may deter people from investing in solar.

“I wouldn’t say there is a consensus yet,” said Scott Anders, who directs the Energy Policy Initiatives Center at the University of San Diego.

He said there are a host of studies and, unsurprisingly, the findings vary widely depending on who conducted them. But rooftop solar is, in a sense, the "canary in the coal mine."

“It’s about all distributed energy resources, so you have solar, you have storage, electric vehicles," Anders said. "The question is, how do you balance their interests — the homeowner, the business owner, etc. — with the interests of the grid?”

Unlike Arizona, California utilities have no fixed charge in place, but some are being proposed.  Anders said places like San Diego are rapidly approaching the state’s cap for net metering and regulators haven’t yet decided what to do when that is reached.

EDITOR'S NOTE: This story has been updated to clarify a statement by Scott Anders.

Updated 10/05/2015 at 10:10 a.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.