The Investigators

Mar 28, 2013 1:00 AM

Loss of solar incentives burns customer

TUCSON - Some Tucson solar customers are hot under the collar. They invested thousands in projects hoping to get money back from the state from an incentive program.

But the Arizona Corporation Commission, which regulates the renewable energy incentive program, eliminated incentives for commercial projects this year.

Paul Turner says that decision is burning his cash.

Paul's plan was a $500,000 solar project large enough to power his home and business on the east side of town. According to his application, he expected to recoup nearly half of that investment over 20 years.

"Anybody who's in the business, or anybody who's looked at this, knows that these projects are not viable economically without incentives."

So far Paul has spent nearly $50,000 on an out building, trench work, designs and plans.

When he learned there'd be no incentives in 2013 he says, "It was sudden. It was unexpected. And it was devastating."

Gary Pierce, Commissioner with the Arizona Corporation Commission begs to differ. He tells us by phone that eliminating the incentives was always the plan.

"Those in the trenches know, this is where we were headed. And exactly what was anticipated 5 years ago is that we won't need incentives over time."

Pierce also says utility companies are ahead on objectives to see more renewable energy and the Commission must protect all of us who pay that surcharge.

Paul says he understands the Commission has the authority to make changes but it should have been phased in. And he should have been kept in the loop on those incentives.

"Because they really just put the whole industry and all these projects that are partially completed in free fall. We can't make them work."

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