Tesla, as a result of purchasing SolarCity and their ongoing litigation, is headed to the US Supreme Court. Interestingly, the case headed to the Supreme Court is an off shoot of the original case filed.
In a class action lawsuit, Tesla says Salt River Project (SRP) is acting in a monopolistic manner by imposing unfair fees on potential solar power purchasers. Salt River responded that they can’t be sued in a class action – and that’s what has reached the Supreme Court.
In the original case, filed in March 2015, attorneys for Tesla contend SRP’s new pricing plan approved last year amounts to a “substantial penalty” on customers.
“Because solar customers are unable to completely disconnect from SRP’s grid — they still need power in the evening hours and at other times when their energy demands exceed what their solar energy systems produce — they cannot escape SRP’s penalty,” the lawsuit contends.
That penalty, according to Tesla lawyers, is about $600 a year, an increase of about 65 percent over prior rate plans. That compares with an average 3.9% increase for residential customers who buy all their power from SRP.
“Customers recognize that SRP’s new pricing plan leaves them with no choice: After the effective date of SRP’s new plan, applications for distributed solar energy systems in SRP’s territory fell by 96 percent,” the lawsuit states.
“SRP’s penalty on solar customers is harmful to consumers, and harmful to competition,” Tesla said, “Competition is eliminated, consumers are hurt, and the environment is harmed.”
SRP responded to original lawsuit by claiming immunity from litigation because they are a state regulated agency.
This is now the third court to look at whether SRP is liable to be sued for antitrust claims. The first court ruled in the fall of 2015 that an antitrust claim could move forward, however, threw out monetary claims.
Next, the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals ruled in June of this summer that Tesla’s suit can move forward against the utility. SPR appealed that decision the following September, and is now prepared to take their argument to the US Supreme Court.
The Supreme Court announced on Friday it will hear arguments in a legal fight between SPR and Tesla.
Concurrently, there is an FBI investigation into Arizona Public Service, a different Arizona state utility, funneling dark money into the election campaigns of state corporate commissions that regulate their own industry – and then, once their person was elected, directly guiding their actions.
Arizona has some of the best solar resources on the planet – dry air and great sunlight – yet the state only got 1.8% of its electricity from the sun over the last 12 months.