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APS Is At It Again

Arizona Public Service is at it again. After failing to dismantle net energy metering in 2013, the monopoly utility company is aggressively pushing legislation to increase taxes on solar customers. And by all accounts, it has called in the big guns to try to make this happen.

grand-canyon-national-park-visitor-center-solar-power-system-0300

Solar panels at the Visitor Center on the South Rim of Grand Canyon National Park…. An exhibit inside the Visitor Center and signage next to the platform-mounted panels inform visitors about the mechanics of solar energy and about how Arizona’s abundant sunshine could make the state the solar capital of the world. NPS Photo by Michael Quinn

Last month, known APS lobbyists and even their CEO pressured state legislators to pass HB 2595, authored by Rep. John Allen (no relation), which would have added a property tax on leased home solar installations. The utility-friendly bill targeted leased systems because they make up 90% of the residential solar market in the state. It was a direct attack on low- and middle-income customers who cannot afford to go solar otherwise. So it’s no surprise that APS went all out to pass it.

During the early stages of the sausage-making, APS Vice President of Government Relations Jessica Pacheco was overheard saying this tax was among the utility’s top priorities. As if to drive that point home, solar industry lobbyists in Arizona reported that APS CEO Don Brandt was personally lobbying legislators on the bill. The full-court press could have had something to do with rumors that the nationwide utility industry has put the heat on APS to clean up its mess after a string of losses. Unfortunately, the efforts of Mr. Brandt et al. went to naught, as HB 2595 fell by the wayside.

But APS will not go quietly into the night. Now, it has enlisted the Arizona Prosperity Alliance to help further its cause and support taxing solar customers. APA surfaced about a year ago with the apparent sole intent of bundling letters to the Arizona Corporation Commission opposing net metering. It is listed as an independent nonprofit 501(c)(4), but its key lobbyist on this effort is Marc Osborn, an attorney at Kutak Rock LLC, who until recently worked for APS advertising agency R&R Partners. APA is run by Brian Murray and Chad Willems of the Summit Group, another firm with connections to APS. (In fact, Murray co-authored a memo for APS on how to overhaul the Arizona Corporation Commission using fake controversies and phony grassroots efforts.)

APA ostensibly provides a pro-solar front for APS, but neither organization has an interest in moving the energy conversation forward, no matter how many pictures of solar panels they plaster on their websites. Even more galling, APS declined as recently as last week to say whether it had taken a position on this issue, even though it clearly has. And to put the cherry on top, its is simultaneously pushing for more coal tax credits through Arizona HB 2285!!

APS’ continued efforts to undermine rooftop solar in Arizona prove that it is not trying to protect ratepayers, and it is not addressing any sort of sustainability issue based on real data. It’s pursuing any avenue it can to take out its competition. Unfortunately for the future of its business model, it can’t seem to find the right road map.

Image Credit: Grand Canyon National Park (CC BY 2.0 license)

 
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Written By

is an independent media strategist based in San José, CA. You can read his many musings on Twitter @pjallen2.

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