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Net metering to become a thing of the past for Arizona solar power customers

(Chinatopix via AP)

PHOENIX — Arizona utility regulators have adopted a new policy on how solar customers pay for their power.

On Tuesday, the Arizona Corporation Commission voted to end the practice of net metering, which allowed solar customers to sell excess power generated back to utility companies at retail rates.

However, solar customers will have plenty of time to adjust. The change does not go into effect for until 2036 for existing customers and new customers will be locked into set rates for 10 years, starting on the date they adopt solar energy.

TNet metering means utilities are required to purchase excess energy created by rooftop solar panels, offsetting customers’ costs of drawing energy from the grid at night or when their panels are not making enough energy to serve their needs. The practice is a key incentive for solar customers.

Currently, utilities pay rooftop customers the full retail rate, usually around 12 cents per kilowatt, for excess power that their solar panels send back to the grid.

The state’s largest utilities, including Arizona Public Service and Tucson Electric Power, as well as several smaller utilities and cooperatives have rate cases pending at the commission. Those cases will determine the amount utilities pay for solar energy.

Solar groups criticized the commission’s decision, saying it hurts solar customers.

The Alliance for Solar Choice said the commission’s decision “disregarded the full, long-term value that rooftop solar brings to Arizona and the long-term certainty that Arizonans need when contemplating a solar investment.”

Last year, the Nevada Public Utilities Commission ended net metering and did not grandfather in existing customers. Major rooftop solar companies pulled out of the state in response.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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