Special Interest spends nearly $700K to re-elect Bob Burns

SIspends
NEARLY THREE QUARTERS OF A MILLION DOLLARS SPENT
AND THEY AREN’T DONE YET!

In campaign finance reports submitted today, it’s reported that Save Our AZ Solar spent $667,082.04 with the hopes of getting Bob Burns re-elected to the Corporation Commission. When you dive a little deeper into the numbers you’ll see that Save Our AZ Solar received $700,000 from SolarCity. And ALL of this spending took place over a 16 day period – August 2 – August 18.  You can review the finance report here.

Here’s a quick breakdown:

Mailing services (mail pieces) – $436,097.16
Digital ads – $225,000
Robocalls – $5,984.88

In Burn’s campaign rhetoric he speaks often about “special interests” trying to stack the deck at the Corporation Commission.

This infusion of cash from SolarCity in support of Burns is starting to make us believers.

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Solar Money Buying the Election for Bob Burns?

The past few years have seen an explosion of outside money to aid campaigns. Outside money is not new to politics and has been around since the dawn of democracy. What is new, however, is that much of it can be spent without knowing who is funding it. In the fights over election spending in Arizona, a lot has been made of outside money that the utilities may have given to aid Corporation Commission candidates. The Commission regulates utilities, so it seems to be a fair question. In the newspapers’ zeal to find out everybody’s sources except their own, (which they conveniently feel a 1st amendment right to do) they have launched some serious charges against local utility companies. What they haven’t done is given the same level of scrutiny to solar companies who have used outside money to aid pro-solar commission candidates.

Recently, Chris Mayes, Janet Napolitano’s spokeswoman and a Napolitano appointee to the Corporation Commission, has been leading efforts by solar companies to spend millions of dollars to aid the already largely subsidized solar industry. Voters should be wary when they see mail and hear calls from Mayes and solar dark money so that they don’t fall for the attacks on the current commission or commissioners. The current commission supports Arizona’s renewable energy mandate, which requires the utilities to use a mix of renewable energy already for distribution to Arizona homes. However that does not seem to be enough for the solar industry that wants to make profits off of government tax credits and federal dollars. Conservatives shouldn’t be deceived by claims made by solar alleging that those who want the market to decide the best energy sources are somehow anti-solar. Solar is already a part of the energy mix and will continue to be prevalent for quite some time. How much it should be subsidized by other rate payers is the real question before voters this November. Should a small percentage of solar users get tax credits and raise the cost for other energy users? Voters will weigh in August and November on these critical issues.

Tom Chabin’s Dark Money Past

In the race for Arizona Corporation Commission, there are several candidates who aren’t who they say they are.

One candidate in particular, has made a major part of his campaign platform about running against “dark money.” You see it on his website, social media and in the media.

Tom Chabin Dark Money

Tom Chabin rails about dark money being spent by big power companies. We assume he’s referring to APS and their First Amendment participation in the election process.

What Tom Chabin doesn’t want you to know is that he was the direct beneficiary of  “dark money” during his failed state senate campaign in 2012.

According to the Arizona Secretary of State’s website, Chapin was the direct beneficiary of $204,531 from four independent expenditure groups.

Tom Chabin IE Money

America Votes is listed as a labor union organization based out of Washington, DC. On their website, they tout “building progressive power” and partnering with every radical leftist organization in America. During the 2012 election cycle, they spent $127,077 in Arizona to elect Democrat candidates. Chabin was one of those Democrats they attempted to elect. Fortunately, they failed.

Another organization that spent $145,774 to keep Tom Chabin in his $24,000/year legislative seat was the Arizona Accountability Project. On their campaign finance reports, they reported $475,000 funneled from an outside dark money group called Revive Arizona Now. They ended up spending $561,047 on Democrat candidates in 2012.

Chabin also was aided and abetted by two other independent expenditure committees. Citizens for Public Education spent $315 but Revitalize Arizona kicked in $44,318 in an effort to save his re-election. According to the Secretary of State’s website, Revitalize Arizona took in $744,328.47 from another group called Residents for Accountability which Tucson media reported, “that group’s finances are a bit of a Russian nesting doll.” Revitalize Arizona spent $44,318 to re-elect Tom Chabin in 2012.

[pullquote align=”left” cite=”” link=”” color=”” class=”” size=””]Revitalize Arizona – “that group’s finances are a bit of a Russian nesting doll”[/pullquote]

Tom Chabin lost his bid for the Arizona State Senate in 2012.

Now Chabin is running for a seat on the Arizona Corporation Commission as part of a Democrat team with Bill Mundell.

Chabin and Mundell are running as “Clean Elections” candidates so they won’t be asking for private donations in their race. PAC’s and individuals will still donate and participate in the election under Arizona campaign finance limits. Independent expenditure committees will still attempt to affect the outcome of the race through express advocacy. And we expect non-profit organizations to air issue-ads to “educate” citizens about the issues.

Both Democrats have made it their mission to attack their opponents by alleging Republicans are part of a vast right-wing conspiracy with APS. (They’re not.)

Both Chabin and Mundell are pushing for Big Solar’s agenda. These solar companies, backed by big environmental leftists, want to retain and expand on their taxpayer subsidies. If elected, Chabin and Mundell will work to keep the taxpayer dollars flowing to these solar corporations.

Given the dismal history of bankruptcies and bailouts of big solar corporations like Solyndra, SunEdison and Abengoa, handing authority to Democrats like Tom Chabin and Bill Mundell would be a financial disaster to ratepayers and the energy market.

Tom Chabin

Expect Big Solar to strong-arm this race and spend big money to put their corporate cronies in place. Just don’t expect leftist-friendly media to shine any light on their dark spending or on Chabin’s dark money past.

 

Big Solar launches ballot initiative to keep corporate crony deal in place

Interesting political developments taking place over the last 10 days in Arizona regarding energy policy.

Big solar has decided to go on offense by exercising the “nuclear option” and launching an initiative in an attempt to lock in ratepayer-funded subsidies in the Arizona Constitution.

Last Tuesday, a group called “Energy Choice for America” registered as an independent expenditure committee with the Arizona Secretary of State. In its filing it stated that it would be supporting a ballot measure but did not list the name of ballot measure. The group’s chairman is listed as Kris Mayes – a former Arizona Corporation Commissioner.

Three days later on April 15, a group called “Yes on AZ Solar, In Support of C-09-2016” filed registration papers with the Secretary of State’s office. This committee registered in support of a ballot measure but listed the ballot measure as “None exists yet.” Kristin Mayes was listed as the group’s chairman.

On Monday (18th), another group called “Energy Choice for America in Support of C-09-2016” registered as a committee in support of a ballot measure – obviously, C-09-2016. Again, the chairman was listed as Kristin Mayes.

Finally, on Tuesday (19th), another independent expenditure committee called “Save Our AZ Solar” filed papers in support of an unnamed ballot measure. The chairman? You guessed it – Kris Mayes.

So why these committees and why is Kris Mayes at the center of all these committees?

First, a brief background on the current dismal state of rooftop solar companies. Anyone following the industry knows that these corporations have been on a major energy bubble waiting to burst. Fueled by political agendas and taxpayer subsidies, public policy has attracted companies attempting to take advantage of a solar-friendly political climate and of course, those big green profits. Companies like SunEdison have over promised and under delivered while they’ve taken on tremendous debt to lease their products to customers.

Thursday, SunEdison announced it was going into Chapter 11 bankruptcy.

We saw a similar situation with Spain-based Abengoa Solar which was working on a project near Gila Bend.

The industry in many ways has become so big, it is failing and it’s failing miserably on its own accord.

Bringing this back to Arizona politics, news of these collapses couldn’t happen at a worse time for politicos seeking to make it a ballot issue for voters.

The formation of these political committees is all part of a last ditch effort by the imploding rooftop solar corporations to cement into Arizona’s Constitution their right to your ratepayer subsidies. Big solar corporations are asking voters to demand that government pick big solar companies as the winner and recipient of utility profits. And don’t be surprised if they use all kinds of fear and loathing messaging to persuade voters to vote for their “free” government money.

It is a horribly inflexible way to make public policy by allowing special interests to seek a corporate crony deal in an ever-changing energy market that requires flexibility.

[pullquote align=”right” cite=”” link=”” color=”” class=”” size=””]This is what happens when government creates an incentive for so-called green corporations – they pursue green paper instead of pursuing green energy.[/pullquote]

So why did Big Solar choose Kris Mayes to chair their political committees? She lends credibility to their agenda and effort. Mayes served on the Arizona Corporation Commission from 2003-2010 and helped write the Arizona Renewable Energy Standard and Tariff (REST) which forces Arizona utilities to produce and deliver a 15% of energy from renewable sources such as solar, wind, biomass, geothermal, etc. by 2025. Until the initiative announced, Mayes served as a senior sustainability scholar with the Julie Ann Wrigley Global Institute of Sustainability.

While I have a tremendous respect for Kris Mayes and ASU’s Schools of Sustainability, as a conservative/libertarian, I do have to disagree with those policy objectives that  increase the size and role of government – especially when the consequences are a disruption to free market economies and a reduction of freedom and the well-being of individuals. There is nothing sustainable about government subsidies and dependency. (Conservatives should actually “own” the word “sustainability!”)

With Big Solar behind this initiative and Kris Mayes as their spokesperson, we can expect millions of dollars to pour into the campaign. In a recent Arizona Republic article, Mayes revealed that “‘significant’ resources will be put in the campaign.”

Thursday it was reported that SolarCity Inc. has already donated $3 million to the campaign. And in a tweet by reporter Rachel Leingang on Wednesday, the committee was already hiring petition circulators off Craigs List at $5 a signature.

A minimum of 225,963 signatures is needed to qualify for the ballot. Doing the math on those numbers shows that it will cost the committee $1,129,815 just to pay for the minimum number of signatures. Most committees try to build a buffer of 15-20% over minimum. Most committees running a “popular” initiative, don’t have to pay for signatures.

That means Big Solar is willing to pay big bucks to keep the subsidies flowing to their business. For them, its the cost of doing business even if it means carving out a special place in the Arizona Constitution.

One of my primary motives for writing columns like this is I’m angered by the injustice of what the rooftop solar is attempting to do to unaware people. These companies will tell a prospective customer that they can generate all their own electricity and that any extra electricity can be sold back to the grid. These companies will sign up customers for a long term lease and install the equipment on their rooftops (free rent to park their units.) The customer will be told they’re helping the environment and saving money on their utility bill (relatively true statements).

But what Big Solar doesn’t really focus on with the customer is who owns the the equipment and that there is a margin between the retail rate and the wholesale rate at which the customer “sells back” their electricity. That margin adds up to big profits for rooftop solar companies.

At the same time, solar rooftop customers do not pay for the cost to maintain and upgrade the main grid. That cost is shifted to non-solar customers to pay. If you’re someone concerned about equity, it’s anything but fair as those folks who are more likely to qualify for a long-term solar lease shift the cost of maintaining the grid to those who cannot afford or qualify for solar leases.

[pullquote align=”left” cite=”” link=”” color=”” class=”” size=””]It’s a big racket for Big Solar and they’re willing to spend big money to keep their big profits in place – by enshrining it into our state constitution.[/pullquote]

When Arizona utility companies revealed these disparities to the Arizona Corporation Commission and suggested more equitable policy changes like elimination of net metering or demand charges, Big Solar went on the warpath. It’s why they’ve launched their initiative “The Arizona Solar Energy Freedom Act.”

If you are a rooftop solar customer, don’t be surprised to see a signature gatherer show up at your doorstep carrying a petition. Big Solar has your name and address and they’re not worried about sharing your private information with the super PAC’s hiring people off Craig’s List to knock on your door and warn you that the sky is falling.

Watch for Big Solar’s “Arizona Solar Energy Freedom Act” and remember, it’s anything but free.

‘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.

Orchestrated Confusion Over UniSource Proposal at Lake Havasu Corporation Commission Hearing

Reading the latest news story in the Lake Havasu News Herald, it would appear that operative from the rooftop solar industry have caused just enough confusion among ratepayers that the latest proposal to bring economic sense and equity to the energy market will require yet another hearing.

Thursday, in accordance with Arizona law, the Arizona Corporation Commission conducted a hearing in Lake Havasu to hear from ratepayers over a request by UniSource to modify its rate structure in order to iron out inequities in the way customers purchase electricity from the UniSource portion of the grid.

One of those changes would be the implementation of “demand charges” – a concept that charges a customer based on the highest demand placed by that customer during a given unit of time. Most demand is placed on the entire grid during early morning hours and early evening hours when users turn on more electrical loads in their households. It is at that time that the grid experiences its heaviest loads that ultimately costs in maintenance, repairs and even brownouts. (Read my earlier post on this concept.)

The UniSource request would allow the utility company to recover the costs of this demand while reducing costs during non-peak demand times.

Additionally, the request would also allow UniSource to adjust the price it purchases (credits) energy from rooftop solar users through net metering. Currently, that rate is sold back to utility companies at an inflated rate. That inflated rate is shifted to non-solar users who pay the difference causing an economic inequity. There are far fewer rooftop solar users than non-solar users so non-solar users are burdened by this rate inequity.

If approved by the Arizona Corporation Commission, UniSource’s request would not take effect until 2017 and rooftop solar users who purchased or began their leases before June 1, 2015 would be grandfathered into the proposal.

The political takeaway of this is that the rooftop solar industry has partaken of this form of corporate cronyism for too long. Because of a nationwide agenda to pick winners and losers in the energy sector, the solar energy industry has been heavily subsidized and given special breaks through policies like net metering. The industry cannot survive without some form of government intervention and when government pulls out and allows the market to adjust, these companies oftentimes go bankrupt leaving consumers on the hook and employees without jobs.

Here in Arizona, the battle to keep net metering in place is being waged at town hall meetings like we see in Lake Havasu.

NonSolarCustomers

When a utility company like UniSource proposes a innovative compromise to allow the free market to adjust properly to the benefit of all consumers, they are met with chaos and confusion orchestrated by the rooftop solar industry. These companies pay their lobbyists to circulate among a community to stoke the fears of ratepayers and senior citizens on fixed incomes.

What they won’t tell you is that they want a bigger bite at the apple of government subsidies and special deals. Meanwhile, its the ratepayers who bear the burden – those who cannot afford $40,000 systems and those who were told sunny days were ahead when they leased one.

Corporation Commissioners will conduct another hearing in Lake Havasu sometime in the next two weeks.

There’s Nothing Conservative or Independent About the Current Rooftop Solar Industry

Rooftop solar is one of the greatest technologies one can invest in these days. The cost of the rooftop units are coming down; it allows individuals to move toward self-sustainability; It reduces our dependence on foreign oil; and it even allows individuals to go entirely off grid and operate independent of utility companies.

So why would I make a statement about rooftop solar not being conservative?

Don’t get me wrong. If I had the means, I’d take my entire home and business off the grid for the reasons I listed above.

It comes down to one word – Independence.

A few years ago, I jumped on the anti-utility bandwagon over net metering and the push to reduce the retail rate. I had to suspend common sense and all those years of economic education to make the argument. I didn’t have the whole picture and the mountains of research to back up that claim.

315344_AZHomesSolarPanelsThe rooftop solar industry is dependent on taxpayers – especially taxpayers who don’t have rooftop solar units installed on their rooftops. That’s consumers like me who cannot afford to lease a product and service that relies on subsidies from consumers like me. To clarify, rooftop solar is still too expensive that average consumers have to sign a lease over a long-term period in order to make it affordable.

[If you’re gonna invest in technology that gives you independence, pay cash. It really is a liberating experience not owing anyone money – including rooftop solar companies!]

The rooftop solar industry is also part of broader political agenda by those typically on the left and in environmental movement who seek to eliminate all non-renewable forms of energy production. This comes at a tremendous cost – especially to consumers.

Integral to this political agenda, policy makers and rooftop solar executives have created a climate in order to make an expensive industry appeal to average consumers. It comes down to manipulating the market and creating artificial incentives in order to attract more consumers to its product.

Imagine if the top executives of Mercedes, Jaguar and Rolls Royce sent their lobbyists to Washington to obtain taxpayer subsidies so they could attract you into a lease of one of their vehicles? You sign a lease to get into their car. They get a break through some tax loophole and the cost of taking care of our roadways is passed on to the individual who can only afford to drive a 10-year-old used car.

The reality is that many solar companies cannot even operate as a viable business without some form of government subsidy. It’s a clear example of corporate cronyism that puts taxpayers at risk or worse, leaves them footing the bill when the company goes bankrupt – as we’ve already seen several times.

[pullquote align=”left” cite=”” link=”” color=”” class=”” size=””]The reality is that many solar companies cannot even operate as a viable business without some form of government subsidy.[/pullquote]

The rooftop solar has been benefiting from these market manipulations through the policy of net metering. They tell you that you can sell your solar-generated electricity back to the utility companies and pay less for your overall electricity. On a self-interest level, that’s great. But what they don’t tell you is that you’re selling back that electricity (actually, you’re receiving a credit) at an inflated rate and someone else is paying for it – a redistribution of utility costs.

Rooftop solar companies don’t own the grid and they don’t pay for the cost and maintenance of the grid. And because utility companies are paying above-market inflated rates, the cost of maintaining the grid is being shifted over to those without solar technology.

In effect, the rooftop solar industry has created a whole new level of dependency. They’ve made leasing consumers dependent on them. They’ve become dependent on net metering policy and utility companies have become dependent on non-solar customers. And when a solar company pulls its plant out of a state like what recently happened in Nevada, they leave a whole lot of people without jobs. There’s nothing sustainable about the overall climate and policy in which the rooftop solar industry operates.

In a perfect world, everyone would be able to afford solar technology without signing a long-term lease contract with the rooftop solar industry. We wouldn’t have to rely entirely on the grid and utility companies wouldn’t have to worry about covering the cost of maintenance in order to provide a reliable source of electricity.

To move toward that perfect world, we can start by eliminating the policies that pick and choose winners and losers through subsidizing and manipulating the energy marketplace.

That’s where real independence can begin and energy independence can thrive.

Net Metering Levels The Energy Playing Field

By Barry Goldwater Jr.

I don’t recall Joe Galli, the former executive director of the North Scottsdale Chamber of Commerce, ever taking up the cause of economically disadvantaged people in south Phoenix. Nor do I understand why he doesn’t identify his new role as the Executive Director of  Market Freedom Alliance. It’s perplexing that the head of an organization by that name would be expressing disapproval of free market enterprise. Nor do I understand Mr. Galli’s motives in writing an article critical of net metering. Perhaps APS has found another front group to attack solar energy.

I am Chairman of TUSK, which stands for Tell Utilities Solar won’t be Killed. It’s a conservative group that supports energy choice and energy independence.

APS doesn’t like net metering because it forces the utility monopoly to pay a fair price for the excess solar energy rooftop solar users send back to the grid. That’s not a subsidy, that’s commerce. In fact Arizona subsidies for rooftop solar power are long gone. That’s a good thing. The industry is able to stand on its own two feet.

You can’t say the same about APS. It’s a regulated monopoly that depends on a government set rate of return of 10%. If APS makes some bad calls, no worries, they can ask regulators for a rate hike. And captive ratepayers have no choice. It’s not like they can switch power companies. As far as national subsidies, the fossil fuel industry is one of the most heavily subsidized industries in the country, receiving far more than solar.

The rooftop solar industry, which supports TUSK, is made up of private businesses, not regulated monopolies. Rooftop solar is giving these monopolies the first competition they ever had and they don’t like it; and apparently neither does Mr. Galli.

Whatever Joe’s motives in writing an article critical of net metering, I’d like to set the record straight. The federal government has dozens of favorable tax structures that benefit traditional energy sources such as natural gas, coal and nuclear.  Yet for solar there is only one and the benefit of the lower tax treatment is passed on to the end consumer through lower electricity costs.  As any good republican knows, lower taxes means more economic growth and more jobs.  Lower taxes on solar are no different.

Secondly, Mr. Galli makes the claim that rooftop solar is for the rich. That’s simply not the case. 57% of the rooftop systems installed in Arizona are installed in zip codes where the median household income is at or below the Arizona median income. That’s according to the Arizona Solar Energy Industry Association, a respected trade group.

Monopolies such as APS don’t like leased rooftop solar which has made solar available to people of more modest means. In fact, APS supports a property tax that targets leased rooftop solar customers. Hopefully Mr. Galli’s concern for those struggling in this economy will extend to working class families and retirees using solar; and perhaps he will write an article critical of this impending property tax.

Conservatives are smart enough to know that net metering opens energy choice and energy independence to more people through rooftop solar. And I am certain that conservatives can see though APS’ attempts to tax a competitor out of business.

Net Metering Tax Credits Discriminate

Recent legislation providing solar tax credits for residential homeowners has allowed billionaires, corporations, and Wall Street financiers to profit at the expense of working class Americans.  Solar corporations leasing panels to home owners, rather than selling, have reaped the financial benefit of solar tax credits intended for home owners to the tune of hundreds of millions.  These tax credits to solar companies have boosted dividends for their shareholders at taxpayers’ expense, while panel-leasing home owners get no immediate financial benefit.

meterWorse.  Solar tax credits discriminate against lower income communities.  Group housing, where many lower income families reside, cannot install residential solar panels, and are therefore not eligible from the get-go for these special tax credits.

Arizona is subsidizing the solar industry with $1.2 billion on residential solar, and not a dime goes to the state’s lowest income sectors – yet, another reason not to have discriminatory solar tax credits.

Further, after residential panels are installed at huge costs to taxpayers, the system of net metering goes to work, also discriminating against the working class.  Owners of solar panels can buy power from the grid as needed, or ship surplus power back to the grid when they produce more than they use.  Under net metering, solar panel owners, however, avoid paying for the service and repairs to maintain the grid.  These costs to maintain the grid are then shifted to non-solar users, placing a higher financial burden on this group, resulting in a disproportionate share of the burden falling on the aforementioned lower income sectors.

In Arizona, taxpayer subsidized solar panel ownership has led to the adding of “environmental programs cost adjustment factor” and renewable energy fees on utility bills, raising financial burdens for all non-solar users, lower income families included.  For example, the city of Scottsdale has a median family income of over $92,000.  Just in the past 5 years, they have had over 1,200 solar installations, which are eligible for state and federal subsidies.  In contrast, an area in south Phoenix with 29,000 residents and an average income of $41,000 has only 45 residential solar installations.  This is just an example, but the statistics are undeniable:  Taxpayer subsidies go to wealthier communities by a factor of 26 times more than lower income communities.

Regressive solar tax credits should end immediately.  Why have we chosen one industry over another?  And worse, we’ve chosen a discriminatory industry that keeps lower income communities down by unfairly forcing them to pay for others solar installation and operation.  Under any sun, these policies are just plain wrong.

Joe Galli

Former Executive Director – North Scottsdale Chamber of Commerce

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.