- Associated Press - Monday, August 17, 2015

PHOENIX (AP) - State utility regulators are considering an Arizona Public Service proposal to raise the fee for new rooftop solar customers.

The Arizona Republic reported that the Arizona Corporation Commission is meeting Tuesday and Wednesday to consider the $21 fee for new rooftop solar customers, which APS says is necessary to account for a shift in grid maintenance costs.

This is the first time the commission has taken up an APS proposal since two new members were elected. Independent groups aired ads in support of the candidates, but APS has declined to respond to claims from critics who say the utility company helped fund the advertising.

Two former commission members have asked to intervene in the rooftop solar rate case.

The Arizona Capitol Times reported that rooftop solar accounts for about 30 percent in lost fixed costs for APS. Other energy efficiency programs accounted for about $24.1 million in shifted costs in 2014.

Utility officials acknowledged that energy efficiency programs are also a factor in shifting costs, but say on a per-customer basis, households with rooftop solar are bearing the brunt of the impact.

APS also says energy efficiency programs are open to everyone, and often include low or middle income customers.

“There are other cost shifts,” APS general manager Barbara Lockwood told the Arizona Capitol Times. “That doesn’t mean you shouldn’t recognize and take action on one you know (exists).”

A $5 monthly fee is charged to customers who installed rooftop solar after 2013.

Opponents are urging the commission to hold off on increasing the fee until the utility files requests to adjust all rates, likely next year.

In its application to the utility commission, APS says a single solar installation means $804 in fixed costs is pushed to non-solar customers. That shift reached $6.3 million last year.

Pat Quinn leads the Arizona Utility Ratepayer Alliance and says $6.3 million is a fraction of the utility’s total earnings.

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