Hundreds attend pro-solar rally in Arizona

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Hundreds of pro-solar advocates have reportedly turned out at a rally outside the Arizona Corporation Commission (ACC) as two days of public hearings began today on the issue of net metering in Arizona.

The hearings began at 09:30am local time and according to Susan Wise of PV firm Sunrun and pro-solar advocacy group the Alliance for Solar Choice (TASC), around 250 pro-solar net metering protesters were already in force by 09:00am with numbers rising.

In opposition to TASC and fellow solar advocates, Arizona Public Service (APS), the state’s largest public utility provider, has put forward proposals including charging solar customers the same rates for electricity consumption as other customers, arguing that non-solar users will be penalised by the disproportionate grid costs of adding solar-generated electricity. APS was recently accused of funding an advertising campaign against net metering using ratepayer money and was unable to refute the claims.

PV-Tech spoke to Will Craven of TASC shortly after 10am local time. Craven was present at the rally outside the hearing as it got underway.

He said the hundreds of pro-solar campaigners present were joined by a brass band and colourful signs, while admission to the hearing was only possible if someone left to come outside. Craven said he hoped to get in at some point during the two days and said that Lyndon Rive, chief executive officer of SolarCity, was among those that had managed to get inside.

When asked how he felt the hearings would pan out, Craven said that as an elected body, ACC should recognise the mood of public opinion as well as the number of jobs created by the solar power industry and not decide to “punitively tax solar”. When asked if his outlook was therefore positive, Craven jokingly replied that people in solar power usually did tend to be optimistic in outlook. Craven also said that the hundreds of people attending the rally outside were sending a message that they were not satisfied with a monopoly on public utilities such as that held by APS.

Craven explained that pro-solar groups such as TASC believed it was unfair that the cost of solar be determined only in relation to other forms of electricity generation, and said he personally found it “galling that on-site generation (and self-consumption) of electricity be somehow considered a burden on the grid…” when in many cases, “the power generated would never touch the grid”.

According to Will Craven, the efficiency that solar power generation provided presented utilities with a potential loss of revenue. “APS will present a self-interested argument that solar is unfair. Among other things solar is a benefit, reducing the need for increasing infrastructure spending but obviously utilities will want to build forever to make returns.” 

Before signing off and returning to the rally to wait for his turn inside the hearing, Craven reiterated his view that as elected officials ACC would listen to public opinion and that he was hopeful of the outcome.

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