That’s right: Arizona solar panel users will be expected to pay a special monthly fee to the Arizona Public Service Co., if a new proposal goes into effect. This would effectively kill a burgeoning industry in the southwestern state, critics say, by cutting what is called “net metering.”
The proposal would see customers of APS charged an additional $50 to $100, if not more, every month if they install solar panels to their house. Regulators are expected to spend the next several months evaluating the proposal before it is granted or denied, reports GreenTech Media.
Officials from APS argue that the fee is necessary because even though people use solar power for their homes, they are still connected to the energy grid. They say that, even though houses with solar panels typically produce enough energy to power the residency (and frequently more than that), customers draw power from the grid at night.
As it stands, the way solar power works in Arizona, and indeed much of the country, is based on a net metering system.
Simply put, energy use for a given home is measured, or metered. A typical house will usually have a certain net, or total, energy use. A home with solar panels providing power, however, often creates more electricity than is needed. The excess, then, is pumped into the local energy grid.
Many solar powered homes have a negative or nearly zero net metered energy usage. As elsewhere, Arizona solar panel users who put extra energy into the local grid are compensated based on the extra energy put into the grid.
The Arizona utility believes the cost is not one-to-one, and that solar users should not be compensated as much. Others, however, have argued that, if anything, solar panel users provide more benefits to the energy grid than costs. Whereas the energy produced from daily sunlight requires very few operating costs, a power plant is a complicated and expensive operation.
Whether the fees will come into effect is expected to be decided on by the end of the year. If the fees for Arizona solar panel users are approved, most expect it to have a devastating impact on the alternative energy’s attempt to expand in the state.