Arizona Public Service released a plan recently to charge residential customers who install solar panels $50 to $100 more a month. The utility says the charges are needed to maintain the electricity grid, but the move is facing lots of opposition, including a vote by the Cave Creek town council to oppose the plan. Barbara Lockwood, General Manager of Energy Innovation for APS, will discuss the plan.
Richard Ruelas: Arizona public service released a plan recently to charge residential customers who installed solar panels $50 to $100 more each month. We heard from a Cave Creek council member last week. Tonight we hear from APS, who says the charges are needed to maintain the electricity grid. Barbara Lockwood is here now to talk about the plan. I guess that Cave Creek vote might just be sort of an understanding or a barometer of how the public feels about solar. But it seems like APS is saying that this idea of getting your power for free if you put a rooftop set on your house doesn't quite wash in the whole scheme of things?
Barbara Lockwood: That's definitely correct. The Cave Creek Resolution, really at the heart of it was a resounding support for solar energy. That's something we can absolutely agree with. Where we disagree is how you support solar energy into the future. Our concern is around fairness. Fairness for solar customers today, fairness for solar customers tomorrow, and that's what our proposal is addressing. We want to make solar sustainable for the future.
Richard Ruelas: I guess people have the idea -- I mean, people like the idea of putting panels on their roof and getting all of their electricity from that. But some of that still comes from APS, correct?
Barbara Lockwood: Absolutely. One of the most important things to understand in this whole discussion is that solar and the grid or the electrical system are very dependent on each other. And solar customers use the grid 24 hours a day. It's a very symbiotic relationship, it works very, very well. The policies we've had in the past are not what's going to take us forward into the future. The policies were created on a foundation that doesn't stand up anymore. In some ways it's like a house of cards. The more you put into the policy the more unstable it becomes. We're looking to address that going forward, and make sure it can stand the test of time and five, 10, 15 years into the future, Arizona still has a choice to go solar.
Richard Ruelas: $50 to $100 per month is in the ballpark of what it is? But it's essentially money going to the utility to fund future expansion to power lines, up-keeping the grid?
Barbara Lockwood: I think that's generally correct. I want to be sure to share that there are three elements and all three are really important in understanding what we're trying to achieve and the totality of the package. One element is grandfathering. We have over 18,000 customers that have gone solar and we thank them. We asked them to go solar and we're very proud they have done so.
Richard Ruelas: They stay with the current deal.
Barbara Lockwood: Nothing that we are proposing now would affect them. They continue to enjoy the benefits under the current proposal. The costs are really about how we credit future solar customers. It's all about fairness. What we are asking is that we want to make sure that we fairly compensate future solar customers for the solar that they are producing. And we also ask that they pay a fair price for the grid that they continue to rely on. That's really the second element of the plan. You did characterize it correctly. It's a reduction in how much we credit them. We recognize that has an economic impact associated with a customer's ability to go forward. We need to make sure that we're communicating that, as well, in this. That is up-front cash incentives. We're looking to continue to support stole lever to our customers and we are looking to help you cut some of those impacts.
Richard Ruelas: Are they not or increased?
Barbara Lockwood: We've had them for a while. What we're proposing is that we increase them so that we can help to make sure that solar maintains some viable options for the future.
Richard Ruelas: And I guess the other incentive people have, because we really can't see the power being generated, but people like to get that bill that says, $12 or credit. They like the idea of the meter spinning backwards. How big of a deal do you think it'll be on the solar market, that people won't see that very miniscule bill from APS, they will see the $75 or other bill they have.
Barbara Lockwood: It's that total package that has the most viable approach. Yes, it may change the bills we get from APS, or we reduce stays there, they are paying for solar. We expect that solar customers will continue to be able to sign up for solar.
Richard Ruelas: If patterns continue with the adaptation of residential rooftops for solar, does that put further down the road the need for another nuclear power plant or things like that? Is that a tangible thing?
Barbara Lockwood: Absolutely it is. We very much appreciate what that brings to the table, one thing you have to keep in mind, it's not a one for one trade off. We in Arizona use the most energy later in the evening, 5p.m., 6p.m., 7p.m. Solar does help defer some generation in the future, but internal, not a one for one trade off.
Richard Ruelas: But that's something else you don't think would be a solar plant, would it have to be one of the options we see now?
Barbara Lockwood: Yes, I think that's true. And kind of back to how we started this conversation about the symbiotic relationship between them. Solar produces energy during sunny times, and then we also need to be able to provide energy at other times like at night or when it's raining.
Richard Ruelas: Is there any other options, wind?
Barbara Lockwood: Absolutely, we do have wind in this, we also have geothermal energy. Another option coming on line here in the not-too-distant future is a Solana generating station. One of the unique things about that project is that it has energy storage. It can produce energy not only noon and later in the day, it can get solar power after dark.
Richard Ruelas: That could change tech knowledge. Barbara Lockwood, thank you for joining us this evening.
Barbara Lockwood: Thank you for having me.
Richard Ruelas: Thursday on "Arizona Horizon" we'll hear from a site selector and an economist about economic development, and find out about new research that could stop inflammation. Thank you for joining us th
Barbara Lockwood:General Manager of Energy Innovation, APS;