What to know about the new solar fee on electric bills – ABC15 Arizona in Phoenix

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PHOENIX — His name is Larry Sunshine. So, of course, he has a solar-powered home.

An early advocate, he installed panels on his roof 14 years ago and immediately saw a cost savings. His first bill was only $46, less than half of what he usually paid.

“I had to laugh at the bill,” he said. “I had such a smile on my face when I first saw it.”

So it was a big surprise to learn he now has to pay an extra fee just because he has solar.

The fee, officially known as “Grid Access Charge” was approved by the Arizona Corporation Commission in February and applies to the estimated 165,000 residences with solar panels. It was part of a package of increases approved for Arizona Public Service customers.

The fee isn’t huge – about two to three dollars a month on average. But that’s on top of a recent 11% hike in APS rates that all residential customers are now paying, not just solar customers.

“It’s just another amount of money out of your pocket that could be used for something that maybe has more value to you: Food, medication, gas for your car,” Sunshine said.

Comments opposing the fee have poured into the Arizona Corporation Commission.

“Consumers don’t know this is happening,” said Adrian Keller, program director for the non-profit Solar United Neighbors.

He worries the fee will be just a start and could increase in future years.

The ABC15 Investigators decided to look into the fee after receiving emails from viewers.

Arizona Attorney General Kris Mayes has also weighed in, saying the solar fee runs afoul of the state’s constitution. She cites a portion of the state’s constitution that says charges by public utilities “shall be just and reasonable” with “no discrimination in charges.”

Mayes filed documents, asking the corporation commission to formally rehear the solar fee or face a possible court challenge.

On Monday, the corporation commission voted to rehear issues related to the solar fee, including whether the fee should be higher or lower and whether the fee is discriminatory to solar customers. That discussion will take place at a future meeting.

ABC15 asked the corporation commission for a sit-down interview on the solar fee but agency officials declined, citing potential legal action.

In a statement, APS said:

“The judge in APS’s case recommended that the Commission increase the amount paid by several different customer classes, including those with rooftop solar, after determining they were paying less than the Company’s cost to serve them. The Commission chose to adopt the judge’s recommendation.”

But solar advocates say they don’t buy the argument that solar users are paying less than it costs to serve them.

As for Sunshine, he’s already seen a jump in his monthly bill compared to last year.

And he’s not holding out hope the fee will go away anytime soon.

“I don’t think they’ll ever get rid of it,” he said.

Many solar customers will see the fee listed as a “Grid Access Charge” on their monthly bills. For solar customers on “legacy” plans, the fee will be included in the base rate and won’t appear as a separate line item on bills.

Email ABC15 Investigator Anne Ryman at  [email protected], call her at 602-685-6345, or connect on X, formerly known as  Twitter, and   Facebook.

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