Sunrun CEO accuses Arizona utility of trying to crush net energy metering

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A leading solar installer accused Arizona's largest utility of trying to “crush” net energy metering earlier this week.

Arizona Public Service Company is currently conducting a series of technical workshops on the cost of solar in the state, the second largest market for distributed generation.

Arizona currently requires utilities to procure 15% of their electricity from renewable sources by 2025. The mandate also includes a 30% carve-out for distributed grid. APS has 24,000 customers who have installed solar systems on their homes or businesses, 16,000 of them net metered.

Ed Fenster, co-CEO of Sunrun, said: “Public opinion is clearly in favour of solar, including in Arizona, however, the utilities have taken the approach which is to say they are for solar [but] with their regulatory folks doing everything they can to crush net metering.

“What they've been saying publicly is that residential distributed solar creates a cost shift amongst their customer base and they are looking out for the ratepayer. This is a great example of how utilties lie to people … APS [says it supports] consumer choice… but they have an active campaign … trying to kill NEM. How is that supportive?”

During the panel discussion at the GTM Solar Summit in Phoenix, Arizona, Gregory Bernosky, manager of APS's renewable energy programme, denied the utility was operating in a contradictory way.

“That's an inaccuracy that you're perpetuating through this conversation that has never been said,” he said.

“Solar customers bring a unique benefit to utilities, [but we need to find] the right way to transact for that and create something that isn't based off a subsidy or incentives… to support it [sustainably] for the long term. We are 100% committed to solar as part of our portfolio.”

Earlier this month, Don Brandt, chairman and CEO of APS, claimed the 25 cents per kilowatt hour that the utility is required to pay net metered customers for excess generation, five times the competitive market rate, would slash profits and shift costs to non-solar customers.

“We estimate that the average rooftop solar system on an Arizona home adds $20,000 in costs for non-solar customers over its lifetime,” he wrote. “As more customers install solar — incentive applications for rooftop systems are coming at the rate of approximately 150 per week — the burden on non-solar customers becomes greater and greater.”

Last November, APS published a paper claiming that non-solar customers are “subsidising” solar customer by $851-1109 a year. The Arizona Corporation Commission, now an all-Republican elected panel, ordered APS to address how it would comply with the Arizona's renewable energy standard now that direct cash incentives have been cut because of budget constraints.

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