‘Stormy Days’ Ahead for Rooftop Solar in Arizona?

Stormy Solar Panels

Arizona consumers of rooftop solar best prepare for cloudy financial times ahead if recent stormy news in the solar panel industry is any indication.

Missouri-based SunEdison is on the verge of financial collapse as it heads toward bankruptcy with $11 Billion of debt, a lawsuit by a subsidiary and an investigation by the fed.

SunRun and SolarCity are also sitting on the same bubble as they find their values halved since late last year and nervous investors losing confidence in the industry’s 20-year leasing approach for consumers.

Also adding to the volatility of the industry is a realization by local and state governments that subsidizing the industry is simply unsustainable bad public policy.

The rooftop solar industry should blame itself for its financial woes. It took on far too much rapid expansion and despite tremendous revenues, it is still facing losses. SunCity lost $769 million while Sunrun reported $28.2 million in losses. And 2016 is certain to continue that trend.

Now the industry is making efforts to cut costs in overhead, labor, advertising, etc. even as the cost of panels had dropped considerably. To come close to making a profit, these companies must continue to lock in new customers. And they must also continue to find favor with state and local governments by continuing subsidies, favorable rate policies and special construction/installation projects.

As traditional utility companies follow a more steady and stable growth model into renewable energy platforms, government regulators are becoming more wise and reluctant to choose winners and losers through policies like net metering. Instead, regulators are attempting to allow the market to adjust to normal conditions with the least negative impact to consumer pocketbooks.

With these policy changes and market adjustments, rooftop solar companies are finding that a good deal [for them] won’t last forever. Even as energy regulators make adjustments to allow the market to benefit all consumers, the rooftop solar industry has turned it into a political battle to keep their special arrangements in place.

This is the vicious cycle for rooftop solar: Cut costs while expanding the number of consumers in order to come close in making a profit – a strategy that is highly dependent on government favors and taxpayers and essentially a form of corporate welfare. As the late Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher once said, “The problem with socialism is that eventually you run out of other people’s money [to spend].”

This brings us back to Arizona consumers of solar energy who will be the negatively affected if the rooftop solar bubble bursts. Who will maintain and warranty rooftop units if the company reneges on its contracts or worse, goes under?

That’s where the market appears to be headed and consumers better prepare for a rainy day.

MBQF Launches Public Opinion Survey Service – Electric Deregulation Top Issue for Maiden Release


Public Policy and Public Education Objective of Service

(Scottsdale, AZ) — MBQF Consulting founder and CEO Mike Noble today announced his objective to provide a quarterly service to inform and enlighten Arizonans on the public policy issues being debated in Arizona and around the Nation. Noble, who is not representing or retained by either side of Arizona’s Electric Deregulation debate being considered by the Arizona Corporation Commission, indicated that future topics would concern issues being considered by the Arizona legislature, the Congress of the United States, as well as multiple ballot initiatives.

“Arizona voters are some of the most engaged in the nation,” Noble said. “By helping identify voters public policy attitudes to decision makers and key stakeholders, we are ensuring their concerns are more clearly understood. It helps enhance the quality of discourse in our state and brings more people to the table.”

MBQF surveyed 516 high efficacy Arizona voters between August 5th and 7th, 2013. Voters were given a summary explanation of the deregulation issue, and then asked whether they supported, opposed or were undecided about electric deregulation. Issue explanations were randomized to present the question in a different order to each half of respondents.

Among Arizona high efficacy voters, 32% of respondents say they support deregulation, 41% say they oppose it, and 27% remain undecided. Republicans are split nearly evenly, with 35% supporting deregulation to 38% who oppose it, and 27% still undecided. Just 26% of Democrats support deregulation, while 45% oppose and 28% remain undecided.   Independent voters showed 34% support, 42% oppose and 24% remain undecided.

“A lesson we take from this is that no side in this debate has really gained any huge dominance over the other,” said Noble. “As is so frequently the case, influence rests with the undecided voters, and that puts all the more pressure on the companies and the stakeholders in this debate to develop new and more convincing arguments to reach Arizona citizens.”

For more information about this survey, or a summary of topline data and wording, please contact Mike Noble at the number above. Included in this survey were 516 autodial responses with rotating samples to ensure issue fairness. The Margin of Error for this survey is +/-4.3% at the 95% confidence level.

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

APS Continues Pressure to Quash Solar Energy Choice in Arizona

Several weeks ago when I took up the cause of energy choice via the issue of net metering, little did I realize I would strike at the nerve of the big utility energy monopolies like APS. While my intention was not to overly criticize the Republican-led Arizona Corporation Commission, several of my posts were mistakenly perceived that way when all along criticism, was meant to challenge big utilities for quashing energy choice.

Recently, Arizona Public Service Co.’s CEO Don Brandt wrote an editorial in defense of APS’ push to eliminate net metering claiming that rooftop solar consumers are a burden on other energy consumers not using solar. What’s striking in this is the audacity of APS’ top executive blaming solar users while APS pushes to widen its profit margin. The last time I checked, APS was regulated by the ACC because of its unique monopoly power in the marketplace. Thanks to the commissioners at the ACC, APS has been kept in check.

I’ve obviously struck a nerve with APS (as other utilities watch this critical discussion take place) to the point where the CEO feels the need to respond and wage a public relations battle against those who want the choice to offer back a surplus of clean, cheap energy. APS obviously feels threatened – and they should – after recent polls show energy choice is extremely important to Arizonans.

It’s time for credit and criticism to be given.

To the Arizona Corporation Commissioners I commend them for a job well done in holding the line for ratepayers, encouraging energy innovation and for the pursuit of realistic consumer-based energy choices for Arizonans. I also continue to urge and encourage the ACC to reject the pressures by big utilities like APS prowling for corporate cronyism deals.

Thanks to the Arizona Corporation Commission, solar is a great success story in our state and will be operating free of utility incentives by the end of the year. With Arizona continuing to score solar touchdowns for schools, consumers and thousands of solar jobs let’s not fumble in the red zone because APS is trying to strip the ball away.

Why Does APS Want Energy Consumers to Subsidize Their Profits?

We all know that it’s mainly Republicans who read Sonoran Alliance. Last year, Arizona voters rewarded Republicans with a sweep on all of the open seats on the Arizona Corporation Commission. Now all five members of the ACC are Republicans. All commissioners are constitutionally obligated to oversee the utility companies which of course, include APS. Republicans commissioners, big utility corporations, you’d think Arizona consumers would be getting the biggest bang for the buck right?

But anyone who reads this blog has probably noticed a little back and forth over the past few weeks regarding energy issues here in Arizona and how one monopoly utility is attempting to squash emerging competition from flourishing rooftop solar entrepreneurs and their consumers.

But APS’ efforts are actually far more disturbing. If you’ve made the choice to install rooftop solar panels, APS is essentially trying to confiscate the power that you generate and provide back to the grid.

How is this possible?

When you install your own solar power plant on your roof, any power that you don’t instantly consume yourself flows onto the grid and over to your neighbor’s home, therefore reducing the overall demand on utilities like APS that distribute power to other homes and businesses. Seems fair, makes sense and benefits everyone right? Energy production and distribution should be a free-market transaction. Consumers have to buy power from utilities. Utilities should have to buy power from consumers. And that’s exactly why it’s law in 43 states.

But, according to what APS has told Wall Street in their investor reports, there’s a radically different story than what’s being told to the public and Arizona Corporation Commission here in Arizona. APS views the increasing use of consumer-based solar as an inhibitor to their further growth and profit and even as a mortal threat to their profits. It’s very much the same way the public education establishment views charter schools and school choice.

That’s why APS wants our Republican-controlled Arizona Corporation Commission to lower the price of what APS has to pay for power consumers generate and provide to the grid – so they can sell it to others for a higher profit.

In other words, APS wants residential solar consumer-providers to subsidize the APS monopoly. Using government to punish innovation, ingenuity and self-sustainability among individuals who pursue energy choice is not a Republican principle. As Barry Goldwater, Jr. recently said this type of practice is not the American or Republican way.

This isn’t  the first time APS has tried to play this game. Take for example, a mailer insert recently sent out to APS customers notifying them that as of March, 2013, they would see a rate increase because more ratepayers are implementing more energy efficient measures and it’s eating into APS’ revenues. That was not a typo. If you choose to recycle your refrigerator or compact fluorescent light bulbs, you will indeed pay more! More energy efficiency and choice of course, obviously means lower profits for them. So APS passes along these fees and rate increases to offset consumers who are becoming more efficient.

APS Ratepayer Notice

APS Notice

As I wrote about earlier, Republican policymakers need to move away from supporting this type of corporate cronyism. When it comes to promoting a culture of competition, we should take a lesson from American Enterprise Institute President Arthur Brooks who recently wrote in the Wall Street Journal:

Corporate cronyism should be decried as every bit as noxious as statism, because it unfairly rewards the powerful and well-connected at the expense of ordinary citizens. Entrepreneurship should not to be extolled as a path to accumulating wealth but as a celebration of everyday men and women who want to build their own lives, whether they start a business and make a lot of money or not.

Many elected Republican officials are embracing changes of competition and innovation taking place in the energy marketplace as they have in other sectors of the economy including education and health care. When we do, the vast beneficiaries are parents of school children, patients, small business and energy consumers.

Like many Republicans realizing the need to refocus back to a free-market entrepreneurial-supportive marketplace, more than ever, we need to extend and reinforce these same principles within the burgeoning small energy provider arena.

To further support my argument, watch as American Enterprise Institute’s Tim Carney exhorts us to pursue a “Culture of Competition” because pursuing profit through competition has the broad effect of benefiting the consumer.

TUSK: Solar Power Has Staying Power in Arizona

Tell Utilities Solar Won't Be Killed

New Poll Shows Opposition To APS’ Plans To Shut Down Solar In Arizona, Including Among Republicans
A New Organization Forms in Support of Solar Program

(SCOTTSDALE, Ariz.) — A revealing new poll shows that Arizona voters, including Republicans, are crystal clear in their opinion of solar energy: Voters like it and they want it to stay here. The information comes on the eve of efforts by Arizona Public Service to shut down the independent solar market in Arizona.

The poll shows that voters think solar power companies are better for the environment than other utilities, will save taxpayers money and an elected official who votes to end the solar program will be committing political malpractice, according to the pollster.

The poll comes as a new organization has emerged to encourage that solar remains viable in Arizona. To show backing for the solar industry, a new organization dedicated to keeping the solar industry in Arizona has announced its formation, T.U.S.K.—Tell Utilities Solar won’t be Killed. It will be dedicated to keeping the solar industry in Arizona and help the state’s business owners, homeowners and schools to keep their energy costs lower and to provide more energy choice for state taxpayers.

Well-known Arizona Republican and former U.S. Congressman Barry Goldwater Jr., who is supporting T.U.S.K. and its efforts, said: “As a son of Arizona, I know we have no greater resource than our sun. Republicans want the freedom to make the best choice and the competition to drive down rates. That choice may mean they save money and with solar that is the case. Solar companies have a track record of aggressively reducing costs in Arizona. It’s crucial that we don’t let solar energy—and all its advantages and benefits it provides us—be pushed aside by those wanting to limit energy choice. That’s not the Republican way and it’s not the American way. Energy independence is what we should all stand up for and that’s what I intend to encourage.”

The statewide poll, which was conducted on March 20-21 by renowned Republican pollster Glen Bolger of Public Opinion Strategies, surveyed 400 likely voters in Arizona, with an oversample of 327 likely Republican primary voters.

The key findings of the poll were as follows:

When asked which of many sources of energy they would MOST want to encourage the use of in Arizona, more than half (52%) of voters say solar power, making it far and away their top choice. Among just Republican primary voters, solar power again easily tops the list, with 40% of Republican primary voters saying they most want to encourage the use of solar power, followed by natural gas at 19%, nuclear at 14%, energy efficient efforts at 6%, oil at 5%, wind power at 5%, and coal at 4%.

  • Fully 63% of voters in Arizona say that solar power companies are better for the environment than utility companies, while just 21% say utility companies are better. Among Republican primary voters, half (49%) say solar power companies are better for the environment, while 31% say utility companies.
  • One half (52%) of Arizona voters say solar power companies are more likely to save taxpayers money, which is close to double the 28% who say utility companies are more likely to save taxpayers money.
  • Eight-eight percent of voters agree (including 76% of Republicans) that solar energy is finally succeeding in Arizona because solar customers are allowed to sell the extra energy their solar panels generate back to the utility company (called net metering). In other words, if consumers are forced to buy power from Arizona Public Service for a certain price, Arizona Public Service should have to buy excess power created by solar panels for that same price. The voters strongly agreed that this is a good policy that exists in 43 other states, and it should not be ended by the Arizona Corporation Commission.
  • Fully 75% of voters say they would be less likely to vote for a candidate who voted to end the solar power program in Arizona, with a majority (52%) saying they would be much less likely to vote for that candidate. A Republican elected official who voted to end the solar power program would also be putting him or herself at risk in a primary, as 60% of Republican primary voters said they would be less likely to vote for a candidate who voted to end the program.
  • Eighty-four percent of voters (and 76% of Republicans) agree that when it comes to providing electricity, there should be more choices and competition rather than just have to use the power from the utility monopoly. Solar power is an important part of that.

The poll was conducted by Glen Bolger, a partner and co-founder of Public Opinion Strategies. Bolger is one of the Republican Party’s top political strategists and pollsters. Bolger has extensive experience in Arizona. In 2012, Bolger did work on behalf of two of the independent expenditure efforts that helped elected Jeff Flake to the U.S. Senate. In previous election cycles, Bolger has served as the pollster for former Congressman John Shadegg, as well as former Congressman J.D. Hayworth.  Bolger also regularly conducts polling for the Arizona Association of Realtors and has done a significant amount of polling at the local level in the state. Bolger is one of the few pollsters ever to twice receive the “Pollster of the Year” award from the American Association of Political Consultants, winning the prestigious award for his work in both 2002 and 2009.

Public Opinion Strategies is a national political and public affairs survey research firm whose clients include leading political figures, Fortune 500 companies, and major associations. Public Opinion Strategies has 15 U.S. Senators, six governors, and more than 75 Members of Congress as clients.

“What this poll shows is that solar power is extremely popular the Valley of the Sun and throughout Arizona,” said Bolger. “The evidence is this poll is overwhelming: When it comes to encouraging the use of solar power in Arizona as compared to other energy sources, solar wins hands down and wins from both sides of the aisle. Voters believe that solar power companies are better for the environment than utility companies, and also that solar power companies are more likely to save taxpayers money than utility companies. Like school choice and health care choice, solar choice is supported broadly by Arizonans, and it’s an important part of the Republican agenda.”

Bolger concluded: “From a political standpoint, voting to end the solar power program is a complete non-starter, as voters are much less likely to support a candidate who votes to end the program.”

Read the poll interview questions

Read the findings


Schweikert to Speak on Domestic Energy & Drilling

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: September 15, 2008 
Contact: Lauren C. Barnett, (480) 946-1125

MEDIA ADVISORY: David Schweikert to Speak On Domestic Energy & Drilling

Scottsdale, AZ– Congressional candidate David Schweikert will speak on the importance of domestic energy and drilling at a district gas station and discuss the anti-energy independence votes of Rep. Harry Mitchell.

WHO: David Schweikert, Republican Congressional District 5 candidate
EVENT: Press Conference
WHEN: 11:00 AM, Tuesday, September 16, 2008
WHERE: Adjacent to the Shell gas station located at the southwest corner of Hayden and Thomas Roads, Scottsdale, AZ 85251
stated, “There is no question, that with rising energy prices placing a burden on Arizona families, we must reduce our reliance on foreign sources of oil.  In Congress, I will not let liberal special interests stand in the way of moving towards energy independence.  I will vote for domestic drilling and be an independent voice for responsible energy policy,” he concluded.

Press Release: Congressman Franks Demands Vote on Energy Legislation

For Immediate Release: August 6, 2008
Contact: Bethany Barker, (202) 225-4576

Franks Announces Intention to Return to Congress, Join Republican Fight for a Fair Vote on Energy Legislation

August 6, 2008 – U.S. Congressman Trent Franks (AZ-02) announced his intention to return to Washington, D.C. the week of August 11th, 2008, and join House Republicans in taking to the House Floor to protest the reckless decision made by Democrat Leadership to force Congress to adjourn for the five-week summer recess without considering comprehensive energy legislation or even allowing an up-or-down vote on an “all of the above” energy bill that would truly help to lower gas prices for the American people.

“Once again Speaker Pelosi and Democrat leaders of Congress have broken trust with the American people and shown themselves to be completely indifferent to reality.  Over the past several months, the consequences of Democrat intransigence have been borne by literally hundreds of millions of Americans struggling to make ends meet through the summer months.  The impact of skyrocketing gas prices has been felt across the economic spectrum – from individuals who cannot afford to even drive to work, to small business having to scale back on employment to stay afloat, to charities, school buses, and law enforcement, all being forced to reduce the vital services they offer their communities.

“When three in four Americans believe that Congress should act NOW to increase our supply of American energy and eliminate our dependence on foreign, unstable sources of oil, it is unconscionable for Democrat leaders of the People’s House to continue ignoring and defying the will of those individuals we represent.  Not only is it a dereliction of duty, but it continues to jeopardize our national security and place us further in the grip of OPEC nations who have no compulsion to act in the best interest of American citizens.

“Republicans have offered bill after bill that would facilitate an ‘all of the above’ approach to America’s energy policy, and would begin to allow responsible drilling in America’s vast energy reserves currently being kept under federal lock and key.  I applaud the 17 Democrats who joined Republicans in voting against the Adjournment Resolution today and thereby calling on Democrat leadership to allow an up-or-down vote on legislation that would address the number one concern of the American people and actually help to bring down gas prices.

“I look forward to joining my colleagues who are choosing to stand firm and demand a fair vote on energy legislation on behalf of the American people.”

Congress narrowly passed an adjournment resolution on Friday, August 1st, by a vote of 213-212, without a single Republican voting in the affirmative, and 17 Democrats voting with Republicans to keep Congress in session until it helps to address the energy crisis being felt by hundreds of millions of hardworking Americans.

Congressman Franks is serving his third term in the U.S. House of Representatives, and is a member of the Committee on Armed Services, Strategic Forces Subcommittee, Military Readiness Subcommittee, Committee on the Judiciary, and is Ranking Member on the Constitution Subcommittee.