Arizona: a Champion in Education Choice, should also be a Champion in Energy Choice

Ask any conservative if they support school choice and the answer is most likely a resounding, “Yes!” School choice empowers parents, families, communities and it reasserts parental control and autonomy back into the issue of education.

While some parents choose to send their child to public school, others may choose private schools, charter schools or even home school their children themselves. Choice in education makes sense and it should make the same sense when it comes to energy choice.

Here in Arizona, conservative lawmakers have pushed and enacted legislation promoting and protecting choice in education while reducing or offsetting the cost to parents who opt out of the public education system. These creative ways to reduce the burden of public education have been in the form of donations that reduce a family’s or business tax liability. It has led to Arizona becoming one of the most prolific school choice states in the country.

Now imagine if the powerful teachers unions were able to capture control of the Arizona Legislature and Executive and began to repeal every law protecting your choice in education. Gone would be scholarship tax credits for families and business. Imagine if the public education monopoly were to control Arizona’s education system to the point where it was almost impossible for charter, private and even homeschooling families to exercise their choice in education. That’s what is about to happen right here in Arizona’s energy market.

It’s about to become very difficult for anyone using residential rooftop solar to continue using this technology to generate their own power – if APS has their way.

In recent years, improvements in technology have allowed energy consumers to afford residential-based power generation technology such as wind and solar units. Consumers have had the choice to generate their own electricity for their own personal needs and even supply excess power back to the main grid. It’s energy choice in action.

Unfortunately, big utility companies like APS see your choice as a threat to their bottom line and have started pressuring rule makers at the Arizona Corporation Commission to change the rules. Specifically, APS would like to see the ACC eliminate the policy net metering which allows energy consumers to provide any excess electricity back to the main power grid and thus reduce their overall energy consumption and cost. APS would essentially regain its monopoly power by erecting a barrier to entry to your ability to supply the grid. Overall, our main grid would lose out by not having thousands of consumers contributing clean power back to the grid.

I started out this editorial by describing how choice in education benefits everyone in Arizona by improving options and reducing the cost and burden on families and corporations. In several ways, energy choice is very much like school choice because everyone benefits, especially here in sun-rich Arizona.

When big utility companies like APS make an effort to take our choice and incentives away in order to protect their bottom line, let’s remind our elected officials whose best interest they’re supposed to serve. Siding with APS on the issue of energy choice would be akin to siding with teachers unions on education choice. Energy choice is as important as choice in education is and Arizona can demonstrate leadership in this arena. After all, that’s what Republican values are all about.

Shane Wikfors is the creator and editor of Sonoran Alliance and a longtime Arizona conservative Republican activist. He is also owner of Red Mountain Consulting & Development and has been an advocate of non-subsidized, consumer-based, taxpayer-friendly energy diversity and sustainability.

TUSK Launches New Ad Against 800 Lb Utility Monopoly

TUSK (Tell Utilities Solar Won’t Be Killed) released a new ad Thursday against the APS monopoly by placing ads across the banner of the Drudge Report – one of the internet’s most visited political news sites.

Here’s a screenshot of the ad across Drudge:

TuskDrudge

In the latest ad, TUSK portrays APS as the “800 Lb. utility gorilla” beating up on independent solar businesses in Arizona. Former congressman, Barry Goldwater, Jr. then explains why conservative Republicans should be leading the charge for energy choice in Arizona.

Here is a copy of the ad:

The message: Don’t let APS monopolize Solar Energy in Arizona. To learn more about TUSK visit www.DontKillSolar.com.

APS Stock Price, Profits Should Be Secondary to Arizona Solar Energy Consumer Choice

During their last earnings call, as reported in the Arizona Republic, Arizona Public Service (APS) CEO Don Brandt was asked about the financial impact rooftop solar could have on APS if solar’s popularity continued to soar.

RooftopSolarJust like the public education monopoly, the APS utility monopoly is concerned that more energy efficiency and choice, specifically more rooftop solar, is starting to eat into its profits and revenue growth.  APS clearly disclosed this to its investors when it revealed that between now and 2015, it expects its electricity sales to grow by less than 1% even though its customer base will grow 2% annually. The reason? APS customers are investing in more energy efficiency with rooftop solar being the primary technology of choice.

Frankly, how APS addresses this with investors is no concern of mine. And neither should it concern the Arizona Corporation Commission.  A more innovative future with more energy choices for Arizona consumers should not and must not be dictated by the utility’s bottom line. By that same logic, we would have harnessed the Internet because of the challenge it posed to newspapers and many other technologies.

I would think by now that any astute energy consumer would recognize that APS’s sudden concern about the proliferation of rooftop solar in Arizona has nothing to do with empathy for Arizona ratepayers.  It has everything to do with curbing a disruptive technology growing quickly in their existing marketplace. As one pollster has opined, allowing APS to do this would be “political malpractice.”

But there appears to be a far greater threat to APS’ stock price (PNW) on the horizon and that, fortunately for consumers, is a healthy competitive change.  Because of their blatantly naked attempts to kill independent solar in Arizona, along with other reasons, the Arizona Corporation Commission is rightfully looking at opening up more utility competition in Arizona.  In fact, they took the first step down this path last week. Kudos to Chairman Bob Stump and Commissioners Gary Pierce, Brenda Burns, Susan Bitter Smith and Bob Burns for their actions. Clearly, APS’ effort to thwart more solar choice in Arizona is exactly why we need more competition in Arizona.

Choice and competition – these are concepts all conservatives can rally behind.  And it is one all Wall Street stock investors will surely be watching.  The bottom line for consumers is we simply cannot have a better energy future in Arizona if the primary focus is on APS profits rather than innovation and competition that always best serves the marketplace.

New Study: Distributed Solar Energy Provides $34 Million in Benefits to Arizona Ratepayers

More information on the debate taking place to eliminate net metering and energy choice in Arizona. This is reposted from The Solar Energy Industry Association:

WASHINGTON, DC – A study released today shows that distributed solar generation (DG) and net energy metering will provide Arizona Public Service (APS) customers with $34 million in annual benefits.

The study was commissioned by the Solar Energy Industries Association (SEIA) and was authored by Tom Beach of Crossborder Energy. Using data from APS’ 2012 Integrated Resource Plan and other APS data, the study examines the costs incurred and the benefits generated by distributed solar over the useful life of a distributed solar system — 20 years. This is consistent with how APS approaches long-term resource planning.

The study found that for each dollar of cost, DG provides $1.54 worth of benefits to APS customers. The net benefits for APS customers will amount to $34 million per year beginning in 2015. Benefits include savings on expensive and polluting conventional power and power plants; reduced investments in transmission and distribution infrastructure; reduced electricity lost during transportation over power lines, as distributed solar power is generated and consumer locally; and savings on the cost of meeting renewable energy requirements.

“This study clearly shows that solar offers concrete net benefits to all APS ratepayers, regardless of whether or not they have installed solar” said Carrie Cullen Hitt, senior vice president of state affairs at the Solar Energy Industries Association (SEIA). “It’s essential that we keep smart policies like net metering in place so that Arizona can continue to benefit from its abundant solar resources.”

Net metering is a popular consumer policy in place in 43 states that empowers homes, businesses, schools, and public agencies to install solar while helping the economy and other ratepayers. As a result of thousands of Arizonans’ choice to adopt rooftop solar, a competitive solar energy industry employs 9,800 Arizonans today.  Arizona boasts the most solar per capita of any state in the nation with 1,097 megawatts (MW) of solar capacity. Beyond making a smart energy choice, this study shows that these customers’ investments provide financial benefits to all APS customers. Overall, Arizona ranks 2nd in the country for most installed solar, with enough capacity to power 139,000 homes. In 2012 alone, $590 million was invested in Arizona to install solar on homes and businesses.

“Arizona has become a national leader in the use of distributed solar energy.  This is due to net metering and other policies put into place by the Arizona Corporation Commission and Legislature. In order to maintain this leadership role, it is imperative that these consumer-friendly policies remain in place,” says Michael Neary, former executive director of AriSEIA, the Arizona SEIA chapter.

The full Crossborder Energy Study is available here.

About Crossborder Energy:
Crossborder Energy has deep analytical experience in the energy field, and has participated actively in many of the major energy policy debates over the last 30 years, including the addition of new natural gas pipeline capacity to serve California and the restructuring of the state’s gas and electric industries. Crossborder Energy provides expert testimony, strategic advice, market intelligence, and economic consulting services on market and regulatory issues in the natural gas and electric industries in California, the western U.S., Canada, and Baja California, Mexico.

About SEIA®:

Established in 1974, the Solar Energy Industries Association® is the national trade association of the U.S. solar energy industry. Through advocacy and education, SEIA and its 1,000 member companies are building a strong solar industry to power America. As the voice of the industry, SEIA works to make solar a mainstream and significant energy source by expanding markets, removing market barriers, strengthening the industry and educating the public on the benefits of solar energy. www.seia.org

Background Materials:
– The Costs and Benefits of Solar Distributed Generation for Arizona Public Service, May 10, 2013: http://www.seia.org/research-resources/benefits-costs-solar-distributed-…
– U.S. Solar Market Insight: 2012 Year in Reviewwww.seia.org/smi
– The Solar Foundation’s State Solar Jobs Map: www.solarstates.org