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PHOENIX -- About 50 people gathered at the Arizona Capitol Building on Tuesday to oppose what they call APS plans that would drastically reduce ratepayer solar savings and undermine the rooftop solar industry in Arizona.

The group TUSK (Tell Utilities Solar won't be Killed) said APS is seeking to boost profits by crushing the production of rooftop solar power and the utility wants the Arizona Corporation Commission to approve one of two options to achieve that goal.

TUSK said one option amounts to a solar tax of $50 to $100 each month on solar customers.

The second option, according to TUSK, confiscates excess power that rooftop solar customers send back to the grid, paying 4 cents per kilowatt hour and then selling it for 12 cents or more.

TUSK said either option would kill the state's solar industry and be detrimental to the livelihoods of 10,000 people employed in the Arizona solar industry.

Customers who have already installed rooftop solar, along with those who have submitted an application to interconnect a system by mid-October, would be given a 20-year grace period before the new policy takes effect. This grandfathering provision will help protect their long-term commitment to solar.

In a statement, APS said it submitted a recommendation to the Arizona Corporation Commission that would update the current rules -- called "net metering" -- so that rooftop solar customers get compensated at a fair price for the power they generate and also pay a fair price for their use of the grid. APS said it sees a future of rapidly increasing adoption of solar power, where large-scale solar plants provide more solar to more customers at a lower cost, and where more individual customers can "go solar" by putting solar panels on their homes and businesses.

The utility said its responsibility is to make sure the electricity grid is in place to support that goal. Today's rooftop solar customers benefit from a reliable grid that is there whenever they need it: at night, in the rain, or when it is so hot they need more power to run their air conditioners. These solar customers also use the grid to sell power back into the system when they have excess. The grid helps ensure that they have the power they need, whenever they need it.

APS added that, as more people install solar on their homes, it becomes more important that everyone who uses the grid helps cover the cost of keeping it reliable. Under current rules, rooftop solar customers benefit from a reliable grid, but essentially avoid paying for their use of it.

Jim Cross, Reporter

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