The Arizona Corporation Commission (ACC) is demanding information from organisations including utility Arizona Public Service (APS) on the possible use of ratepayer funds in controversial public relations campaigns against solar power and net metering.

Commissioner Bob Burns of ACC has written to the Tucson Electric Power, its parent company, Unisource Energy, electric co-operatives, as well as APS, regarding their methods of fund public relations and advertising campaigns.

APS, the state's largest utility company, was recently forced to admit it had funded a campaign via a conservative Washington DC area political organisation called 60 Plus Association against the net metering of solar, despite previously denying the action.

Burns said he was "troubled by the magnitude and cost" of recent PR campaigns against net metering and said that he wanted to know how much money was being spent on anti-solar campaigns by utility companies. He raised concerns that funding was coming from ratepayers, either directly or indirectly.

Burns’ letter stated that he was also asking solar power providers for the same information regarding their corresponding pro-solar and net metering campaigns.

Although at present solar companies are not regulated by ACC, Burns said he was interested in their funding of campaigns as it would help in his consideration of the matters. Burns asked for replies to be sent no later than 6 November.

The commissioner’s letter asked three direct questions:

  1. How much money was spent on campaigns regarding net metering, including lobbying.
  2. The number of hours spent by salaried staff on campaigns regarding net metering
  3. In the case of utilities, whether the funds spent on campaigns would be recovered through operative and administrative costs.

ACC will issue a ruling on 14 November on whether or not prices for electricity should be raised for customers using solar power, which has been lobbied for publicly by APS.

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