Solar Activists Save Solar In Arizona — Or Was It Just The Jobs?

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According to data from the end of 2011, Arizona was the top solar power state per capita. However, to the displeasure of solar advocates across the country, the Arizona Corporation Commission in January voted against important solar incentives that have helped make Arizona a leader. However, strong citizen engagement, and perhaps a bit of solar-job love from moderate Republicans in leadership in the state, have resulted in a changing of the tides. Greentech Media’s Herman Trabish has more in the following article, reposted from Greentech Media:

az-flagSolar advocates in Arizona are celebrating a victory — Republican Arizona Corporation Commission (ACC) veteran Gary Pierce has withdrawn his proposal to alter the state’s Renewable Energy Standard and Tariff (REST) and reduce the 15 percent renewables by 2025 requirement on Arizona’s investor-owned utilities.

After Pierce’s informal and unexpected proposal for the cut in January, “defenders of Arizona’s solar future sprang into action,” wrote Arizona blogger Will Greene. Environment Arizona led a rally and announced opposition, while CREDO Action progressive activists started an online petition that won nearly 7,000 signatures and leveled a flurry of opposition calls and emails at the ACC.

Solar champion Gabby Giffords’ successor in the U.S. Congress, Representative Ron Barber (D-AZ), pointed out that a REST cutback would cost the state renewable energy jobs.

Pierce pulled his proposal last week, noting the “talk out there about it.”

“Score a victory for an engaged citizenry,” Greene wrote.

It is an especially important victory because, as reported in the just-released GTM Research/SEIA U.S. Solar Market Insight Year-in-Review 2012 report, Arizona was among the nation’s top five markets for residential, commercial and utility-scale solar last year and is projected to be so again.

Source: GTM Research/SEIA U.S. Solar Market Insight Year-in-Review 2012 report

Pierce was a leader when, in January, the five-member ACC eliminated the performance-based incentives (PBIs) provided to commercial solar system buyers by the state’s two investor-owned utilities (IOUs) and drastically reduced the upfront incentives (UFIs) provided by the IOUs to residential solar system buyers. He has been heard to publicly describe supports for renewables as “a monster.”

With attacks on renewables standards led by fossil and nuclear advocates in at least nineteen states from Maine and North Carolina to Wisconsin and Oregon, some regard the Arizona popular uprising as a template for a successful grassroots response.

“Poll after poll shows Arizonans want more solar,” former ACC policy advisor Nancy LaPlaca noted. That is equally true of polls about solar throughout the country. The surveys show that voters know, as LaPlaca put it, that “solar displaces fuel costs, which are in fact ‘monstrous’ because of the uncounted enormous health costs, dirty air and water, and climate change” that they also entail.

But Arizona observers say Pierce probably had to withdraw his proposal to weaken the REST when he realized some of his fellow Republicans on the ACC would not support it. He was apparently caught so off-guard by the lack of support that he is now denying he ever meant to make the proposal, according to sources close to the situation.

At least three commissioners, one Arizona solar professional observed, had campaigned on the promise not to cut the REST and are moderate enough to be inclined toward pro-business Republican Governor Jan Brewer’s concern with supporting business and job creation, especially with Arizona’s solar industry now going through major changes in the wake of ACC actions, along with Suntech’s financial difficulties.

The proposed REST change could have also worried Republican and putatively pro-business Arizona legislators, the Arizona source added, who last year passed up the opportunity to alter the REST because of the potential impact on the state’s already troubled economy.

Pierce’s decision to withdraw his proposal, GTM’s source said, could have been less a response to the popular uprising than a recognition that he didn’t have the votes at the ACC, as some moderate Republicans are returning to their pro-business roots, even if that business is solar.

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8 thoughts on “Solar Activists Save Solar In Arizona — Or Was It Just The Jobs?

  • It’s sad that in the past, just because the people support it and it’s the right thing to do for humanity’s ability to thrive and avoid suffering, those aren’t reasons enough for many politicians to stand up for replacing the existing energy market order with a new and inherently better one. Sad, sad, sad. Fortunately now, there is enough money being made that more politicians are willing to fight for the new market order, with its new jobs. Finally the will of the people and compassion on humanity actually counts. I guess?

    Nevermind. It’s a win! And just because politicians are more or less evil and stupid doesn’t mean that the real arguments about, I don’t know, things like “perpetuity” and the “commonwealth” don’t count, and won’t continue to help.

  • Well now I can head to Arizona for Spring Training with a clean conscience. This is a state that could probably hit 50% clean energy by 2025 with adequate investment. They have sun coming out of their ears. Furthermore, the whole southwest could become uninhabitable in a few decades if temperatures rise very far. They have need and opportunity and it’s sad the state is so backwards they won’t just get it done.

  • On-grid solar is far to uneconomic to be useful. The entire activity is a placebo, which is leading people to believe we actually have an alternative to fossil fuels or Nuclear, which we don’t at the moment. Far better to tax the externalities of fossil fuels and let the market develop real alternatives, rather than these crony capitalism shams like on-grid solar energy.

    • David? TAX, what are you thinking, everyone has enough taxes.

    • I’d be quite glad to see fossil fuels and nuclear charged for their real costs. That would make both so very expensive that we would quickly abandon both and install massive amounts of wind, solar, geothermal, hydro, tidal and biomass/gas.

      You obviously aren’t aware that solar is now selling for around ten cents per kWh on the wholesale market. That makes it quite a bit less than electricity from gas peakers. And it is less than either new coal or new nuclear, even without requiring them to cover their externalities.

      • Ah, let him have it – Remove all subsidies for Wind and Solar, and Tax all externalities for Coal and Nuclear (Including requiring insurance!)

        I’m more than happy to let the free market take care of the rest… Things will probably change faster that way.

Comments are closed.