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.
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.