TEP solar customers will pay higher fees
Dec 21, 2011 (The Arizona Daily Star - McClatchy-Tribune Information Services via COMTEX) --
Tucson Electric Power Co. ratepayers who reaped rebates for solar-energy systems will have to pay a little more back into the pot that funds such subsidies, under a TEP renewable-energy plan approved by state regulators.
Under an amendment to TEP's 2012 renewable-energy plan, the Arizona Corporation Commission voted to require that solar rebate recipients must pay a renewable-energy surcharge equal to what they would have paid had they not installed solar.
Up to now, ratepayers who installed solar have paid less of the monthly, usage-based surcharge that funds rebates for renewables, since they used less energy from TEP. For example, residential customers who generated half of their own power through solar paid 50 percent of the surcharge.
Under the new rule, proposed by Republican Commissioner Brenda Burns, those rebate recipients will pay the full surcharge -- set at $3.15 a month for 2012 -- based on their overall usage, regardless of how much they got from their solar systems.
Burns said her proposal was a matter of fairness, since rebate recipients benefited from mandatory surcharges paid by all ratepayers in order to fund their systems. She said some ratepayers have told her they feel that's unfair.
"People who actually get thousands of dollars to put solar on their roofs, I'm sure they'd be willing to help for a couple of dollars a month," Burns said during debate on the issue.
But the commission's two Democrats and some members of the solar-energy industry called the measure unfair to ratepayers who invested in solar.
Commissioner Paul Newman, a Tucson Democrat, called the proposal a "poison pill" that will chill demand for solar even as per-watt incentive levels are reduced. "It disincentivizes people from becoming first adopters," Newman said. "It's not the correct signal for us to send as this commission."
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