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More than 1,200 missing in the California wildfires. Also on the Monday rundown: A pair of reports on gun violence in the nation; and concerns that proposed changes to 'Green Card' rules favor the wealthy.

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Advocates say APS Proposal Could Cripple Rooftop Solar

Advocates say a proposal by Arizona Public Service to cut net-metering rates in Arizona could cripple the state’s rooftop solar power industry. (francis49/iStockphoto)
Advocates say a proposal by Arizona Public Service to cut net-metering rates in Arizona could cripple the state’s rooftop solar power industry. (francis49/iStockphoto)
June 13, 2016

PHOENIX - Solar-power advocates say a new rate proposal by Arizona Public Service, if put into effect, could cripple the state's rooftop solar industry.

The plan, now before the Arizona Corporation Commission, would cut the rate paid for excess solar energy fed back to the grid by 73 percent, effectively removing the financial incentive for homeowners to invest in solar panels.

Bret Fanshaw, a state advocate for Environment Arizona, says cutting net-metering rates from retail to wholesale levels would be a major setback for renewable energy in Arizona.

"The big thing that we're concerned about is that it's going to hurt solar because it will be less incentive people to go solar," he says. "But more broadly, there is a growing body of research that shows how distributed solar energy actually provides a greater value to the grid and society as a whole."

Fanshaw says distributed solar power reduces energy loss during generation and transmission, investments in power plants and fossil fuels, and the cost of compliance with environmental standards.

APS, the state's largest power provider, says rooftop solar customers aren't currently paying their fair share to maintain the power grid.

Fanshaw says current rates for rooftop solar would be grandfathered for 20 years, meaning the new rates, if approved, would apply only to home systems installed after July 2017.

He says that might set off a short-term rush to get rooftop systems installed but, in the long run, it would make the economics of rooftop solar in Arizona unworkable.

"Throughout the process, we're going to be encouraging members of the public to weigh in on the plan with the commissioners and make sure that they're hearing all sides of the issue," Fanshaw says.

A move by solar panel installers to put a referendum on net-metering on the November ballot ran into stiff opposition in the 2016 Arizona Legislature, with pro-industry groups offering up a competing ballot initiative.

The two sides agreed to mediate, but a recent negotiating session failed to yield an agreement and no future meetings are scheduled.

Mark Richardson, Public News Service - AZ