PHOENIX — Salt River Project is mulling whether to increase rates for its solar customers, a move that has garnered public opposition.
Hundreds of solar customers and advocates showed up to a board of directors meeting in Tempe, Arizona to express their opposition to the plan on Monday.
“It makes me lose my investment in the panels,” Mitzi Epstein, a SRP solar customer from Tempe, said. “I now have wasted money on the panels (and) I will not get a return on investment at all.”
The rate hike would have solar customers pay roughly $50 more per month, attorney Court Rich, who represents The Alliance for Solar Choice, said.
Rich called the increase a “tax” on solar customers.
“They’re saying you’re going to need to spend at least $50 dollars more a month for the right to generate some of your own electricity and buy less of what they’re selling,” he said.
SRP’s management proposed the rate increase as a way to ensure all customers are paying to help maintain the electricity grid, SRP spokesman Scott Harelson said.
“Everybody uses the grid, including rooftop solar customers,” he said.
Solar customers are not autonomous and use electricity from utilities, such as SRP, at night and when weather reduces a panel’s ability to produce electricity.
Harelson said the increased rate provide more funds for infrastructure upgrades and maintenance. He also said it will play an important role in ensuring SRP has the funds to allow more solar customers.
Customers, such as Epstein, said they feel SRP has used a bait-and-switch technique to lure customers into solar by paying for part of the panels, only to then raise rates.
“SRP helped us pay for those panels so we thought, ‘We’re partners with SRP. This is us working together,'” she said. “Now it feel like they’ve pulled the rug out from under us.”
The board will make a decision on the matter Feb. 26.