Shining Some Sunlight on the Politics of Power in Arizona

Recently, I couldn’t help but notice a shared post on Facebook by Arizona Corporation Commissioner; Gary Pierce. Commissioner Pierce publicly gave kudos to one of Sonoran Alliance’s contributing writers, Richard Brinkley, over a column in which Brinkley took Barber to task over Barber’s criticism of the ACC.

Sonoran Alliance oftentimes provides commentary shedding light on the various intersections within the Republican Party.  We react and we forecast.  And we connect dots to inform.

In this post I’d like to expound on Brinkley’s column but also offer some clarity on what free market Republicans should do to remain politically and intellectually honest.

Republican Arizona Corporation Commissioner Gary Pierce is a good man.  But lately behind the scenes, he appears to be doing the bidding not of ratepayers, but of APS.

Last Thursday’s “atta boy” on Facebook to an online criticism of Congressman Barber’s own critique that the Corporation Commission has moved and is continuing to move to kill the solar industry in Arizona, needs some ideological clarification and even correction.

While I am not in the habit of indirectly applauding messages by Democrats like Ron Barber, Republicans, especially Gary Pierce need to think long and hard about entering corporate cronyism arrangements with monopolistic utility providers like Arizona Public Service.

APS essentially wants to erect barriers to entry and even kill competing solar providers because a flourishing solar industry threatens their position in the market resulting in less control and business for them.

So how can Republicans like Commissioner Pierce argue that the public education monopoly deserves competition via charter schools and school choice but monopolistic utilities like APS should face no competition?

The hypocrisy is Republican policymakers wax eloquently about the evils of subsidizing solar energy but shrink from criticism when confronted about massively subsidizing corporate monopolies like APS. It’s time for Republicans to be intellectually consistent and reject corporate welfare policies altogether.

This brings me to my free market point of clarity. All indications are that over the next year, APS will be working behind the scenes with the Corporation Commission to kill net metering.

What is net metering?

In brief, net metering is the policy of 43 states to allow residential solar customers to sell excess power back to the grid.  It is a sound policy requiring APS to buy this power just as we consumers are limited when we buy power from the government-sanctioned utility companies.

Eliminating net metering would kill the flourishing residential solar market here in Arizona thereby eliminating consumer choice for Arizona energy consumers.  Does Commissioner Gary Pierce really want to take credit for this – eliminating consumer choices – especially in Arizona where sunshine is as much a commodity as oil is in the Middle East?

Over the next year hopefully Commissioner Pierce will realize this is not just bad public policy, it rejects free market core principles that are inherent to the Republican Party.  Competition is good for schools, health care and energy.  Solar energy is an important part of that.  Those businesses are getting off incentives while utilities are not.

We can hope that our GOP returns to taxpayer-friendly, competition-based public policy as we re-engage the citizenry with consistent messaging that will resonate more powerfully in the future. Let’s face it, hugging the 800 pound utility gorilla is bad public policy and bad politics.

Shane Wikfors is the creator and editor of Sonoran Alliance and a longtime Arizona conservative Republican activist. He has been a consultant for and is an advocate of non-subsidized, consumer-based, taxpayer-friendly energy diversity and sustainability.


  1. […] we already know (see APS/Morrison Public Perception Study, other studies here, and here), a recent post by Sonoran Alliance’s creator and editor Shane Wikfors poignantly reveals just how deep Arizona’s bipartisan support for solar extends. It is a […]

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