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APS plan to offer no-cost solar installation has customers lining up

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PHOENIX – APS wants to provide 3,000 customers a $30 monthly credit over 20 years to install solar panels on their rooftops in a proposal that is currently under review by the Arizona Corporation Commission.

“Our customers have been enthusiastic about solar, and this is another project where we can bring that to them,” said Marc Romito, the manager of renewable energy at APS.

The utility presented the plan in July with a goal of generating 20 megawatts of solar power. Participating customers would face no upfront costs and would receive credits totalling $7,200 over the course of the agreement. The systems will feed into APS’ grid rather than directly to a house’s supply.

“APS intends to strategically deploy a portion of the 3,000 systems to pursue specific purposes, such as serving low-income or low-credit-score customers and providing system benefits,” the application reads.

While participating customers wouldn’t directly receive the power generated by the panels on their rooftops, Romito said that the rooftop solar is connected to the APS grid for distribution. The monthly credit is designed as an incentive for customers.

“This proposal opens up solar for more customers,” Romito said.

The Corporation Commission has mandated that APS and other utility companies produce 15 percent of their overall energy output from their renewable energy sources until 2025.

Susan Bitter Smith, a member of the Corporation Commission, said that the proposal is part of that push for increased solar, even though most utilities have exceeded the mandate.

“The Commission is going to look very carefully at the proposal and make sure it is beneficial to consumers before moving forward,” Bitter Smith said.

Rebecca Wilder, communications director for the Corporation Commission, said that the proposal is still in the first stages of review. APS must produce a staff report, followed by an open hearing process and a decision by a judge before the Corporation Commission could review it.

Not everyone is on board with the proposal. Sunrun, a California-based solar provider with a strong presence in Arizona, is part of The Alliance for Solar Choice, a coalition of solar companies that has formally opposed the proposal.

“APS is trying to monopolize the market on solar in Arizona,” said Bryan Miller, the vice president of public policy and the co-chairman at TASC.

Miller said that the proposal is a thinly veiled attempt to distract Arizonans from news reports exploring claims that the utility is secretly contributing to dark money to a nonprofit political group to influence the election for two seats on the Corporation Commission.

“It’s certainly a publicity stunt,” he said.

Romito said APS’ efforts to move toward solar are genuine.

“We are a solar-friendly utility,” he said. “And our customers are excited about the program.”