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Dueling Solar Intiatives Withdrawn As The Future Of Arizona's Solar Industry Remains Up In The Air

Arizona's largest solar installer and the state's largest electric utility agreed late Thursday to withdraw conflicting plans for how the state can regulate rates charged to customers who generate their own power.

It started with an initiative by solar provider SolarCity to keep utilities from imposing new charges and cutting how much the companies pay for the power they buy from solar customers. Republican state lawmakers worked with Arizona Public Service (APS), the largest electric utility in the state, and responded with two ballot measures of their own that would have given utilities an edge in asking the Arizona Corporation Commission to charge customers with rooftop solar higher rates.

Now all three initiatives are being sidelined. SolarCity lobbyist Meghaen Dell'Artino said it made sense to back down rather than engage in what promised to be an extensive, not to mention expensive, ballot fight, with neither side guaranteed a victory.

Instead, she said these issues can be worked out among the parties, potentially putting a compromise in front of state utility regulators who ultimately get the last word in rate matters. "The idea is that by putting all of our guns down, that those conversations going into that rate case can be more fruitful so that all sides can thrive in those discussions," she said.

What form those discussions might take, however, remains up in the air.

Former utility regulator Kris Mayes, hired by SolarCity to run the initiative, said there will be a professional mediator and the governor's office will be involved. But Mayes said she envisions something like what utilities and solar advocates just agreed to in New York which preserves net metering at retail rates, but only through 2019.