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APS wants to raise rates on home solar customers

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PHOENIX (CBS5) -

APS wants new home solar customers to pay a little more, and that could have a major impact on the future of Arizona's solar industry.

The average home solar customer gets back about 70 percent on their energy bills, but under a new proposal by APS, new solar residential customers will get back a lot less.

APS is planning to present proposed changes to its "net metering" program to the Arizona Corporation Commission Friday. 

The new APS plan will drop the rate of return for solar customers down to anywhere from 20 to 40 percent.

APS officials said new customers would also be offered a number of incentives.

Greg Bernosky is manager of APS' renewable energy program. He told CBS 5 News that the rate change is necessary to create an equal playing field with non-solar customers.

According to Bernosky, solar customers don't pay for all the services they use, and those added costs are passed on to everyone else.

"The question to us is about fairness," said Bernosky. "What we want to do is make sure that the rates are designed, and set in a way, that they fairly pay for the price of using the grid and are fairly compensated for the energy they produce back to it."

Greg Field, with Arizona Solar Concepts, doesn't buy it.

Field said that APS has seen the steady increase in solar customers, and it's impacting their profit margin.

If the Arizona Corporation Commission approves the changes to APS' "net metering" program, Field is convinced it will destroy Arizona's solar industry.

"Homeowners will not do this just for environmental reasons," said Field. "If the homeowner does not see dollars and cents savings in the first year, which effectively this would remove, this is a game changer. This would literally kill our industry, and kill consumer choice for homeowners."

T.U.S.K (Tell Utilities Solar won't be Killed) agrees with Field and says they believe if either plan is approved, a utility monopoly gets a windfall and "Arizona's thriving solar industry would be decimated."

Current home solar customers would be grandfathered in, and allowed to keep the higher rate of return.

APS' plan would not affect schools, churches or businesses.

Friday's proposal to the Arizona Corporation Commission will be followed by several public hearings, in the next few months.

A final decision is not expected until the end of the year.

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

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