(Bloomberg) — SolarCity Corp., the biggest U.S. rooftop
solar installer, sued Salt River Project, alleging the Tempe,
Arizona-based utility’s new pricing policy will “punish
customers who choose to go solar.”
SolarCity said the pricing plan adopted Feb. 26 imposes
unfair fees on SRP customers who generate their own power, and
represents anti-competitive behavior, according to a statement
The dispute is part of a growing conflict between companies
like San Mateo, California-based SolarCity that install
residential solar systems and utilities that see rooftop panels
as a threat to revenue.
“Just because you’ve decided to go solar, now you will pay
a substantial additional penalty for having made that choice,”
Fred Norton, SolarCity’s associate general counsel, said in a
telephone interview. “That’s discriminatory and unfair.”
People with solar systems typically send the output to the
grid and get a credit on their monthly power bills, reducing the
amount of electricity purchased from the local utilities. Adding
a fee offsets the economic benefit to the customer, SolarCity
said in a blog post on its website.
Under the new pricing plan, customers who don’t produce
their own power will have a minimum monthly charge of $20. For
people who generate electricity, from systems such as rooftop
solar panels, the minimum will be $32.44, and heavy users will
incur a higher basic charge.
Solar customers also face a demand charge, ranging from
about $30 in winter months to $125 in the summer that non-solar
customers don’t have to pay, according to the complaint filed
Monday in federal court in Phoenix. The new pricing takes effect
in April and will apply to to people who installed generating
systems after Dec. 8.
SRP said that under the new plan, most customers would end
up paying about the same amount as they did with the prior
arrangement. For example, a customer who paid $170 before
installing solar was paying a $20 minimum charge and $150 for
electricity. Now, that same person would pay a $32.44 minimum, a
demand charge of about $73 and then $65 for energy, according to
John Tucker, SRP’s manager of pricing design.
“An average solar customer saves about $100 a month when
he installs solar,” Tucker said. “What we’re trying to do with
the price plan is to just equalize his bill reduction with the
cost reduction we incur.”
SRP’s fee has already affected SolarCity’s business since
it was proposed in December. In the prior six months, the
company was installing on average 400 systems a month in the
utility’s service area. New applications have plunged 96 percent
since December, the company said. SolarCity has more than 7,000
customers in SRP’s service area.
The case is SolarCity Corp. v. Salt River Project
Agricultural Improvement and Power District, U.S. District
Court, District of Arizona (Phoenix).
To contact the reporter on this story:
Justin Doom in New York at
To contact the editors responsible for this story:
Will Wade at
Reed Landberg at