An Arizona public utility has voted to impose new charges on customers who generate some of their own electricity with photovoltaic (PV) systems, arguing the extra income will help pay for grid infrastructure and maintenance, ThinkProgress reports.
Directors of the Salt River Project (SRP) voted in favor of the new fee late last month despite the appearance of some 500 protesters at their meeting in Tempe.
Chief Financial Executive Aidan McSheffrey said that the utility has no choice but to modernize the grid and improve reliability. But in a letter to SRP, SolarCity CEO Lyndon Rive promised to sue the utility for violating state and federal antitrust laws.
ThinkProgress said the additional “demand charge” would be based on a solar customer’s peak power demand during the month and would be imposed no matter how much power the customer provided to the grid.
Solar advocates get some concessions
The utility had originally proposed that the 15,000 existing solar customers in the state keep their current rates for 10 years before being switched to the new plan. But in the end, directors agreed to push that out to 20 years in response to customers who had calculated savings on their investments with a longer time line.
SRP also decided to allow customers who signed solar contracts before December 8, 2014 to keep the current rate plan for 20 years, ThinkProgress reports.
Finally, the utility said that it would use a 30-minute period of peak power demand rather than 15 minutes to determine the new demand charge.
Still, it’s not enough to deter SolarCity, which had urged SRP a week before the vote to withdraw the plan.
Rive wrote the new fee is “an unabashed penalty on customers who want to go solar and a deliberate effort to stop new solar installations.”
ThinkProgress adds that solar customers in neighboring New Mexico are looking at a similar proposal. There, the state’s largest electric utility proposed late last year a $30 monthly fee for solar customers in order to connect to the grid.
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