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Thu, Oct. 17

APS gets approval for rooftop solar

PHOENIX (AP) - State regulators cleared the way this month for Arizona Public Service Co. to compete with private companies in rooftop solar installation.

The Arizona Corporation Commission said Friday it would not object to a proposal from APS to generate 10 megawatts of energy through solar panels on homes. Officials approved a program that has been scaled back from APS' original plan involving 20 megawatts, the Arizona Capitol Times reported.

"I believe that this will in the long run benefit all of the ratepayers or I wouldn't be doing it," Commissioner Robert Burns said.

Commissioners were initially wary of the plan, finding that APS did not need the additional energy source to meet its renewable energy requirements. Commissioner Brenda Burns' mind still wasn't changed and she cast the only dissenting vote.

According to Brenda Burns, APS will want to recover expenses in their next rate case. If the commission approves, that would add $28.5 million into the rate base "plus rate of return on megawatts that we don't need."

Solar industry representatives also opposed the project for APS' potential to undercut a renewable-energy mandate.

APS has since agreed not to recoup expenses through the state's renewable energy standards. As a result, consumers won't initially be expected to pay. APS will try to get costs covered in its next regular rate case scheduled for next year.

The pilot project could help customers from low-income backgrounds who don't qualify for a lease or can't afford to purchase a solar system, according to the Residential Utility Consumers Office. The watchdog agency said the project also could further the study of how to integrate solar energy into the state's infrastructure.

The utility technically did not need the commission's permission for the residential solar program since it is not going to seek recovery of costs through a renewable energy standards surcharge. But it's a good idea to get the commission involved so the agency can monitor the project, Robert Burns said.

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