Former State Representative Lucy Mason: APS Solar proposal falls short for Arizona

Below is a reproduction of Lucy Mason’s response to APS. Mason served Arizona as a member of the Prescott City Council starting in 1997 and then as a member of the Arizona Legislature from 2002 to 2010.

APS Solar proposal falls short for Arizona
By Former State Representative Lucy Mason

Arizona Public Service has been granted monopoly status to provide power in certain parts of Arizona. It’s also a publicly traded company and has a fiduciary obligation to maximize profits for shareholders. This may lead the company to pursue policies that are in its interests but not those of its ratepayers.

This dynamic is on clear display as APS now works on their response to the impacts created by the Arizona rooftop solar market. By its own admission, its customers’ adoption of rooftop solar is eating into its profits, and potentially its stock price.

As the public is exposed to a debate between APS and solar advocates, some historical perspective might be helpful.

While serving as a Republican in the Arizona State Legislature I believed that in the 21st Century Arizona’s economic future would benefit by harnessing its greatest natural resource – the sun – to become a national leader in the solar market. But APS nearly always opposed efforts to allow a vibrant solar industry because, the more energy efficient customers become, the harder it is for APS to reach its profit. The utility portrays itself as pro-solar because solar has broad public support. Nevertheless, they have only carried out projects required of them by law.

Their latest proposal that would undermine rooftop solar in Arizona would undoubtedly be detrimental to the livelihoods of the 10,000 individuals employed by the Arizona solar industry. So, a growing economically viable industry in Arizona is at risk, at a time when Arizona is trying to rebuild its economy and create healthy business competition. The key word here is “competition.”

One option in APS’ proposal is the equivalent of a monthly tax/fee on solar customers. Initial indications are that this tax/fee would be $50-$100 or more for each solar customer.

Another option would offer solar homeowners a quarter of the current credit they receive, while APS would then sell that solar electricity that they did not create, for a profit.

So far, APS proposals will eliminate the entire reason that retirees and families go solar, which is to take control over one’s energy consumption and plan wisely for their families’ future.

The solar industry is not asking for a new tax on Arizonans, just appropriate compensation from APS for rooftop generated solar energy.

APS’ most persuasive point is that it should be compensated something for use of its power lines to transport new solar power. But let’s recall my original point. The state has granted them monopoly status and a guaranteed 10-percent profit. For that extraordinary right shouldn’t we ask for something in return, like allowing rooftop solar to grow in Arizona? And what is magical about 10 percent? Readers should ask, if the return were changed to something slightly less wouldn’t this entire debate be gone?

APS is also now fighting attempts to create a more deregulated market. I have some sympathy for this position. But if we didn’t have deregulation, shouldn’t we have some competition in Arizona via rooftop solar?

I am all for a win-win solution, in which APS and solar companies reach an agreement. But if APS insists on a win-lose as is currently proposed, their proposal must be rejected. As the nation turns its eyes to Arizona and how this debate will impact solar around the country, can we really believe that perhaps the sunniest state in America would be the one to eclipse the savings, promise, and choice of solar?