For Immediate Release, June 4, 2019

Contact:

Jean Su, (415) 770-3187, jsu@biologicaldiversity.org

Court Urged to Reject Discrimination Against Arizona Rooftop-solar Customers

PHOENIX— The Center for Biological Diversity today took legal action in a federal court to challenge an Arizona power-utility company’s discrimination against rooftop-solar customers.

The Salt River Project, a public power utility in Arizona, raised electricity rates for rooftop-solar customers by 60 percent in 2015. In response rooftop-solar customers in April filed a proposed class-action suit against the utility for the discriminatory rates that penalize them for installing renewable energy. The utility filed a motion to dismiss the suit, arguing that public power companies are shielded from antitrust laws. Today’s amicus brief opposes that motion.

“The Salt River Project’s discriminatory rates unlawfully punish customers who embrace clean energy and protect Arizona’s air quality,” said Jean Su, the Center’s energy director. “Old-school utility monopolies are dragging down renewable energy and propping up dirty fossil fuels. These schemes are doing terrible damage to our health and our planet’s future.”

The Center’s brief, filed in the U.S. District Court of the District of Arizona, challenges the utility’s argument that it is immune from antitrust liability. The filing also states that the power utility’s obstruction of rooftop-solar deployment unlawfully stamps out clean energy competition and undermines the very public-interest objectives that utility monopolies were created to serve.

Stifling solar energy competition harms the public by obstructing distributed solar generation’s benefits to the climate and consumers, the brief argues.

In addition to avoiding the health and environmental harms that fossil-fuel energy sources cause, rooftop solar saves every utility customer money. This is particularly true in Arizona, where air conditioning use peaks during the day and distributed generation helps reduce costs of running more expensive and polluting natural gas “peaker” plants.

In 2015 SolarCity Corporation, later acquired by Tesla, challenged the utility’s discriminatory rates on similar antitrust grounds. The company took the case to the Supreme Court after a lower court rejected its request to dismiss it. But it reached a settlement with Tesla before the Supreme Court hearing, and the discriminatory fees were left in place.

“Climate change is already making Arizona’s heat waves deadlier,” said Su. “It’s critical that the courts stop these outdated monopolies from abusing the law to boost dirty energy and further heat the planet.”

The Center for Biological Diversity is a national, nonprofit conservation organization with more than 1.4 million members and online activists dedicated to the protection of endangered species and wild places.