Whose hand is at work in Arizona solar subsidy attacks?

Share on facebook
Facebook
Share on twitter
Twitter
Share on linkedin
LinkedIn
Share on reddit
Reddit
Share on email
Email

It could be the heat. Phoenix last month sweated out 118 Fahrenheit and the mercury across Arizona hasn't dipped much below 100F since.

But the simmering battle for Arizona's rooftop has now boiled over into a full-scale war that doesn't look like it will cool any time soon. This is an energy industry drama worthy of a plotline in Dallas, complete with dirty tricks and a mystery over a smoking gun.

As in all wars, the first casualty is truth. Last month, adverts started running on local cable TV that portrayed third party ownership (TPO) specialists Sunrun and SunCity as “new Solyndras”; corporate raiders from California ready to shake down ordinary Arizonans of their hard earned tax dollars.

I urge you to watch the ad yourself.

“We've seen this before,” the ad intones. “Connected companies getting corporate welfare now California's new Solyndras – Sunrun and SunCity – are getting rich off hard working Arizonans. Out-of-state billionaires using your hard earned dollars to subsidise their wealthy customers. It's not right. We don't need this California-style corporate welfare in Arizona.”

The ad is so bombastic and ridiculous it could easily pass for an amusing parody, all the more so because it advertises a website called AZSolarFacts.com, a non-profit backed by the right-leaning retirees advocacy group 60 Plus – more of that later. But this is the land of attack ads and free speech where you can pretty much say what you like and get away with it as lies and outrageous claims are protected by the all-too-often abused constitution.

However, the solar industry is not so much up in arms about such a risible false message as who is behind these ads.

Now this is where the plot thickens. Arizona Public Services (APS), the state's largest utility company, denies any direct involvement despite its vociferous resistance to the spread of solar through net energy metering. APS claims that residential PV systems cost its non-solar customers US$18 million a year because solar customers dodge paying US$1,000 a year for services everyone connected to the grid needs.

APS says that PV installations have grown from 900 rooftop systems in 2009 to 18,000 in June 2013, averaging an additional 550 installations each month. Clearly, APS is worried about its own margins.

Earlier this month, APS filed proposals that could almost double demand charges for residential users and cut the NEM rate APS has to pay solar providers from retail rates at 12c/kWh to wholesale rates at 4c/kWh.

But if APS is waging its war through state regulators, could it be prosecuting that war through television ad? So far, the utility has denied involvement.

“Net metering is an important customer issue that unfortunately has become highly politicised,” a spokeswoman told the Phoenix Business Journal. “Although we welcome public support from organisations like 60 Plus, their opinions on the topic are theirs alone. We have not contributed any funding to 60 Plus, but going forward we would certainly support organisations that share our position on important customer issues.”

So a denial of current support, but a promise of future funding? Others smell a rat and believe that there is already a strong connection between the ads and APS.

Barry Goldwater, a former Republican House Representative in Washington and chairman of the group Tell Utilities Solar won’t be Killed (TUSK), said in a statement: “It’s disappointing to see APS hiding behind consultants and political action committees. If they feel so strongly about their anti-solar messaging, then let them put their name on it.”

So far, we only know for sure of the involvement of the 60 Plus Association, a conservative version of the Washington-based Association of Retired Americans that focuses on low taxation, social security and healthcare. 60 Plus claims that NEM hits seniors the hardest, that's why it has launched the ad.

Jim Martin, 60 Plus Association chairman, said: “The skyrocketing energy rates facing Arizonans will hit seniors and those on fixed incomes the hardest. We support solar power and very much want it to be sustainable in the long term.

“That’s why rates must be fair to all customers. We released this ad to tell the public why solar companies are really against net metering reform — unfortunately, they depend heavily on corporate welfare for their financial bottom line.”

Protecting seniors on fixed incomes from rate inflation is laudable.

“As temperatures soar across Arizona, so has the debate between out-of-state rooftop solar companies and APS over net metering reform,” says AZSolarFacts.com. “This is a complicated and important issue for our senior communities served by APS, and our concern is that seniors are being sold a rotten deal by those representing these out-of-state companies – companies that want little more than to be the next Solyndra benefiting from taxpayer handouts.”

The link between installers and financers Sunrun and SolarCity and the failed thin-film solar company which took more than a half a billion in federal loans is stretched so thinly that the real movers are visible behind the scenes.

Suspicions that this cause for “seniors” could be a wolf in sheep's clothing intensified when APS confirmed that Sean Noble, an Arizona political consultant, is a paid consultant at Pinnacle West Capital Corporation, the utility's parent company.

Furthermore, Noble is under investigation for laundering campaign money in California and is linked to 60 Plus and Koch Industries, run by the billionaire arch advocates of dirty energy.

There is much at stake in Arizona, where 38% of the electricity generated is from coal, 28% from nuclear and 27% from natural gas. Could this finally be an admission that solar is now a worthy enough enemy to engage in battle, turning such attacks into a form of flattery?

Goldwater is convinced that APS is behind these attacks. “It's like asking if the sun came up this morning,” he told PV Tech. “Why else would 60 Plus be involved in what is a local issue unless APS were involved?

“Utilities want to destroy solar and they don't want to lose their monopoly. They ignored the rooftop market and allowed private companies to do a terrific job.

“There is definitely a war against solar not only in Arizona but nationwide – Arizona is just the test ground.”

10 November 2021
The solar tracker market continues to mature at breakneck speed, with designs and component selections becoming ever-more complex in the pursuit of better project economics. But a more simplistic design could deliver a triple benefit of lower Capex, EPC and Opex costs. This webinar will set out the ideal single axis tracker design for utility-scale solar farms. The design leapfrogs from decades of experience, with a comprehensive understanding and attention to the three cost structures of Capex, EPC and Opx. Sun and Steel Solar has prototyped a single axis tracker designed to deliver up to US$0.03/W in real savings compared to existing single axis trackers on the market. That’s US$30 million for every gigawatt deployed.
15 November 2021
The 10th edition of the famous Metallization and Interconnection Workshop, MIW2021, will take place in the Thor Central venue in Genk, Belgium, on Monday, November 15, and Tuesday, November 16, 2021 as a face-to-face meeting. We are longing for direct exchange of knowledge and ideas after a long time. Hopefully you can be part of it! But of course, the organizors will keep an eye on the evolution of the Covid pandemic. It will be assess carefully, whether the workshop can be held without major risks or excessive restrictions. We are looking forward to exciting talks, discussions and meetings and to welcoming you in Genk!
23 November 2021
The solar, storage and EV industries in the UK are going from strength to strength. There is no better place for the community to meet, share ideas and do business than Solar & Storage Live from 23-25 November at the NEC.There’s something for everyone; more than 150 exhibitors, a high-level conference, a start up and innovation zone, a poster zone, strategic partners to network with and much more. 
24 November 2021
In this webinar we will assess how these technical parameters and land characteristics can make a difference, in order to correctly make the choice between 1P or 2P trackers. There will be a comparison of the behaviour of Soltec’s 1P tracker, SFOne, and its 2P tracker, the SF7.
1 December 2021
Understand fully the technical and logistical supply chains that determine the production and performance of solar modules, including all related factors impacting quality, reliability & bankability. This event will be run online with streamed content, access to session recordings and chat/messaging tools for delegates to connect.
2 December 2021
Intersolar is the world’s leading exhibition & conference series for the solar industry. As part of this event series, Intersolar India in Mumbai is India’s most pioneering exhibition and conference for India’s solar industry. It takes place annually and has a focus on the areas of photovoltaics, PV production and solar thermal technologies. Since 2019, Intersolar India is held under the umbrella of The smarter E India – India’s innovation hub for the new energy world.

Read Next

October 27, 2021
Colombia has awarded contracts to 11 solar PV projects with a combined capacity of 796.3MW in its third renewable energy auction.
October 27, 2021
Microinverter supplier Enphase Energy reported record quarterly revenue in Q3 2021 but stressed the importance of price increases to help offset price volatility in its supply chain.
October 27, 2021
Spanish utility Iberdrola has expanded its investment in renewables and smart grid projects to €7.03 billion (US$8.15 billion) but its net profit suffered, falling 10.2% to €2.4 billion (US$2.78 billion), according to its recent financial results for 2021 release today.  
October 27, 2021
India installed around 8,811MW of solar between January and September 2021, a 280% increase on the same period of 2020, according to JMK Research & Analytics.
October 27, 2021
Swiss fund manager SUSI Partners is acquiring a portfolio of more than 200MW of distributed solar PV and wind assets in Chile, marking its first investment in Latin America.

Subscribe to Newsletter

Upcoming Events

Upcoming Webinars
November 10, 2021
8am (PST) | 5pm (CET)
Solar Media Events
December 1, 2021