SolarCity suit against Salt River Project can continue, judge finds

A federal district court judge in Arizona has allowed SolarCity to continue its lawsuit against the Salt River Project (SRP) over a new rate structure for sale of retail electricity, which included additional fees for consumers who obtain part of their electricity from rooftop solar energy systems.

In the Oct. 27 order, however, U.S. District Judge Douglas Rayes dismissed several of the claims that SolarCity wanted to pursue in the case.

SRP approved the new rates in February 2015, Rayes said in the order. SolarCity subsequently filed suit, challenging the new rate structure under federal and state antitrust laws.

SolarCity’s legal action was brought against the Salt River Project Agricultural Improvement and Power District, commonly referred to as SRP, and a separate legal entity, the Salt River Valley Water Users’ Association.

In the order, Rayes also addresses SolarCity’s allegation that the district and the association are “alter egos” and hold themselves out as one entity – SRP, the American Public Power Association (APPA) said in a Nov. 12 summary of the order in its online newsletter.

SolarCity alleged that the district is a mere instrumentality of the water users association and therefore both are liable for alleged anticompetitive conduct. But the association said that the doctrine does not apply between a political subdivision of the state and a private entity, and even if it does, the association should be able to raise the same governmental defenses as the district.

Rayes ruled in favor of the association.  Because SolarCity failed to make its case on the alter ego argument, the judge dismissed the water users association from the proceeding.

The SolarCity versus SPR case is No. CV-15-00374-PHX-DLR.

About Wayne Barber 4201 Articles
Wayne Barber, Chief Analyst for the GenerationHub, has been covering power generation, energy and natural resources issues at national publications for more than 20 years. Prior to joining PennWell he was editor of Generation Markets Week at SNL Financial for nine years. He has also worked as a business journalist at both McGraw-Hill and Financial Times Energy. Wayne also worked as a newspaper reporter for several years. During his career has visited nuclear reactors and coal mines as well as coal and natural gas power plants. Wayne can be reached at wayneb@pennwell.com.