9th Court Of Appeals Rules SRP Not Immune To Anti-Trust Lawsuits
The 9th Circuit Court of Appeals ruled utility company Salt River Project is not immune from anti-trust lawsuits when setting customers’ rates, even if it is a quasi-governmental entity.
SRP had argued, because its governing board approved recent rate hikes, the power company is justified to impose annual penalty fees on solar customers to avoid shifting costs to the remaining electric customer base.
But, SolarCity's attorneys claimed that penalty is "substantial," with solar clients paying an estimated 60 percent increase over a 3.9 percent rate increase imposed on electric-only consumers. And, because solar customers cannot fully disconnect from the electric grid, they contend, the utility company is trying to eliminate competition.
“Customers recognize that SRP's new pricing plan leaves them with no choice,” the lawsuit states.
SolarCity’s attorneys estimated SRP’s penalty fee averages $600 a year for solar adopters, and that’s why SolarCity’s contracts dropped 96 percent once SRP’s new penalty went into effect.
SRP spokesman Scott Harelson said an appeal is possible for the utility, which serves the Phoenix metro area.
Unless the decision is overturned on appeal, it means SRP, and other Arizona utility companies, could be forced to defend their penalties and rates in court.
Arizona Public Service already settled with solar companies, but that agreement awaits a hearing and final approval by the Arizona Corporation Commission.