Tucson Electric mimics APS with rooftop move

By David Wichner | Arizona Daily Star

Arizona Daily Star reports Tucson Electric Power Co.’s next big solar-energy farm may be spread over hundreds of rooftops across the Old Pueblo.

In a move that rankles some in the solar-energy industry, TEP has asked the Arizona Corporation Commission to approve a new program to install company-owned photovoltaic systems on residential customers’ roofs, free of upfront charges.

In exchange, customers would pay a fixed monthly electric rate based on historical usage — estimated at $99 a month for a typical customer who now spends $90 to $100 a month on power — and guaranteed for 25 years.

TEP would own the systems and use local contractors to build and maintain them. The company is seeking approval to spend $10 million to fund 3.5 megawatts’ worth of rooftop systems, or about 600 homes with the systems rated at 6 kilowatts each.

The program would be available to all TEP customers but would be marketed in areas deemed by TEP to be best-suited for grid-connected solar, a company spokesman said.

“We think TEP is trying to go into a completely new market and compete on an unlevel playing field in a market that’s already served by competitive forces,” said

Court Rich, a Phoenix attorney who represents Solar City and the industry group Alliance for Solar Choice. “And that never results in lower prices; that never results in a good deal for ratepayers.”

Rich said that if TEP or APS want to get into the rooftop solar business, they should do so through unregulated subsidiaries that would compete on the same basis as other private companies. Regulated utilities are guaranteed a return on equity.

The proposal is part of TEP’s 2015 plan to comply with Arizona’s renewable-energy standard, which requires state-regulated utilities to boost their share of renewable generation to 15 percent of their retail power sales by 2025.

The biggest state-regulated utility, Arizona Public Service Co., has proposed a somewhat similar program to install utility-owned solar systems on customer rooftops.