In 2013, a national battle for energy choice commenced as utilities attacked solar net metering in California, Arizona, Louisiana, and Idaho. Net metering allows rooftop solar customers to use clean solar energy that they generate themselves, and then receive full retail credit for any excess electricity sent back to the grid. Utilities turn around and sell this energy to neighboring homes and businesses.
The solar industry – backed by overwhelming public support – claimed victory in all of the 2013 battles by preserving net metering. The Arizona battle was particularly heated, as Arizona Public Service (APS) funded a multimillion-dollar anti-solar campaign rooted in dirty and ineffective tactics. APS lied about funding phony grassroots organizations and ads attacking their own customers. Meanwhile, utility trade association Edison Electric Institute (EEI) aired its own TV and radio ads attacking rooftop solar customers. Despite spending millions and damaging their own brands, APS and EEI failed. What they did accomplish was dragging down APS’s net approval with its own customers by 13 points.
Arizona and last year’s 4-0 scoreboard for solar wins vs. utility losses demonstrate that the public – voters and ratepayers whose energy choice is under attack – wants rooftop solar. In 2014, public support for solar remains undeniable: the rooftop solar industry just defeated two additional attacks in Utah and the state of Washington.
The Utah and Washington battles mark the entrance of a new rooftop solar attacker: The American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC). ALEC joined the fray last year with a template for model anti-net metering policies. Washington and Utah are the first decisions stemming from this template, and both are clear ALEC defeats.
Utilities, EEI, and ALEC want to undermine net metering to stifle rooftop solar growth and shut down energy choice. While net metering benefits everyone involved, many utilities are trying to end it to protect their monopolies.
“In state after state, overwhelming public support for rooftop solar continues to trump multi-million dollar attacks from utilities, EEI, and ALEC,” said Bryan Miller, President of TASC and VP of Public Policy for Sunrun.
In Washington, utilities lobbied for legislation that would have given them monopoly control over the existing rooftop solar market. The anti-competition proposal stated “if an electric utility offers a leased energy program, no other entity may offer leases to the utility’s customers.” This attempt to ban competition – the first of its kind – contradicts the very free market principles that groups like ALEC espouse.
The legislation died with the end of session last week – a blow to ALEC, as well as anti-solar utilities and EEI.
In Utah, bill language that would have changed net metering was removed from SB 208, instead asking for a study to look at the value of distributed solar. The bill will be signed by Governor Herbert now that it has passed through both the Senate and the House.
The solar victories in Washington and Utah are two more examples of state leaders and regulators continuing to recognize voter support and demand for rooftop solar and energy choice.