No more free sun: Arizona's biggest power utility wants to tax solar
Arizona's biggest power utility, Arizona Public Service (APS), has announced their intention to implement what would effectively be a tax on the sun. The whole idea behind net-metering is that if you install a solar system on the roof of your house or business, you can buy power from the grid when you need it, and sell extra power when you have a surplus. Often these rates are advantageous to provide an incentive for renewable energy adoption, a very fair thing considering all the subsidies, direct and indirect, that fossil fuels have had for decades.
But APS would like to start charging a monthly fee to sell clean power back to the grid (in their Orwellian language, they call it a "convenience charge"). A source says that that the fee could be of around $100/month or $1,200/year, enough to change the economic attractiveness of small systems. It's not entirely clear if the fee scales up for larger systems, but that seems likely.
In a conference call before the Arizona plan was submitted, APS executives estimated that the average net-metering return today is between $0.15-$0.16 per kilowatt-hour (kWh), saving the average residential customer about 70% off their bill, reports GreentechMedia. The first option proposed by APS would reduce the customer's return to $0.06-$0.10 per kWh. The second would reduce a system owner's savings by about 50%. (source)
Arizona boasts the highest installed solar capacity per capita in the U.S. at 167 watts/person, or about 1,097 megawatts (MW) of cumulative capacity. But that's just the beginning, the state has huge untapped solar potential, but it's not by attacking net-metering policies and that they will be developed.
If there are extra costs to the grid from going solar, money needs to be found to pay for it. But I'm sure there's a way to do that without slowing down the growth of solar. That's just counter-productive. When you are moving in a desirable direction, you don't willingly slow down... Any capital investments into solar power made now will pay dividends for decades because there's no fuel costs and the environmental costs (externalities) are much, much lower.