Hundreds of solar supporters line up for public hearing - KCTV5

Hundreds of solar supporters line up for public hearing

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PHOENIX (CBS5) -

The battle over solar power in Arizona is heating up.

Nearly a thousand people packed the parking lot of the Arizona Corporation Commission near the state capitol Wednesday.

The Commission was holding a public hearing to get input on whether APS should be allowed to hike-up rates on home solar customers, by making changes to its net metering program.

The large crowd outside looked a lot like fans tailgating before an Arizona Cardinals' game.

There was loud music, games and lots of food.

"It does feel like a football game," said Keally DeWitt, with the Alliance for Solar Choice. "People care about this issue. The public supports rooftop solar in Arizona." 

APS is asking commissioners to increase fees on new home solar customers $50 to $100 a month, as a way to offset maintenance costs which APS claims is unfairly being passed on to non-solar users.

The solar industry argues that home solar customers pay enough as it is and any increase  could wipe out solar in Arizona, by making it unaffordable.

Around 300 people signed up to speak at Wednesday's hearing, and most of them spoke out against the APS plan to increase home solar rates.

"I'm tired of the government changing the rules," said Sheila Muehling of Scottsdale. "People signed up based on a certain program. We can't trust anything any more ."

Michael Ludgate of Scottsdale toLd CBS5 that he invested more than $10,000 in his home solar system and it will take more than 8 years to break even on his investment.

"They make it sound like I am stealing from my neighbors, and I think that is unreal," said Ludgate. "That's why I wanted to come here, to make a statement and be heard."

There were a handful of speakers who expressed concerns that if APS wasn't allowed to alter it's home solar rates, that it could impact all utility users in Arizona, in the years ahead.

"Over time, that amount of money that APS is not fully collecting from all its customers has got to be paid by someone," said David Getts, with the SouthWestern Power Group. "Our concern is if the ACC doesn't deal with the issue now and pushes it off for a few years, the problem will grow and we'll all be faced with a bigger problem down the road."

The ACC is expected to vote on the net metering issue on Thursday.

Copyright 2013 CBS 5 (KPHO Broadcasting Corporation). All rights reserved

 

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