A new solar attack ad has just emerged in Arizona from a previously little-known lobbying group.
The short video was posted at the website of Prosper, an organization led by former Speaker of the Arizona House Kirk Adams and staffers for former U.S. Senator Jon Kyl (R-Ariz.).
“The average person who watches that ad is not going to understand a thing they said,” former Republican Arizona Congressman Barry Goldwater, Jr. told GTM immediately after watching the new solar attack video. “And it will not do any good. In the polling we’ve seen, 80 percent of the people of Arizona are supportive of solar electricity. I don’t think the ads will change anybody’s opinion.”
“Current policies aren’t fair because solar users are paid five times the market rate. Those costs are passed on to those who don’t have solar,” the 30-second spot claims. “The average home solar system adds $20,000 in costs for customers who don’t get the benefits.”
The spot follows "Corporate Welfare," an earlier ad paid for by The 60 Plus Association that claimed “California’s new Solyndras, Sunrun and SolarCity, are getting rich off hardworking Arizonans. Out-of-state billionaires are using your hard-earned dollars to subsidize their wealthy customers.”
Leaders of the solar industry advocacy group Alliance for Solar Choice and the Goldwater-led Tell Utilities Solar [Won’t Be] Killed (TUSK) group have alleged that funding for the videos actually comes Arizona Public Service (APS), but the utility, Arizona’s dominant electricity provider, denies any involvement beyond what it described as the coincidence that it contracts with a consultant who also works with the 60 Plus Association, lobbyist Sean Noble.
Goldwater said he had no direct knowledge of the source of the videos’ funding or Noble’s role, “But it stands to reason," he contended. "I think APS ought to step up and put the label on anything they are doing.”
The debate over who is funding the solar attack ads is a proxy for the larger fight for net metering in Arizona, which Alliance for Solar Choice President/Sunrun VP Bryan Miller recently described as "the most significant fight for solar in the country."
APS just filed a proposal with the Arizona Corporation Commission (ACC), the state's regulatory commission composed of five elected members, offering future residential solar customers two alternatives to the current net-metering policy, either of which would cut back current returns to solar system owners for the electricity their systems produce.
“The question of net metering is a little complicated for the average uninvolved person,” Goldwater said. “It is going to come down to the Corporation Commission. But public opinion is important, and I don’t think APS has a very good argument. They want to tax rooftop solar and kill it in Arizona.”
Goldwater said he was present at the debates on the state renewables standard. The ACC was " in opposition to it then, and they still are today. All they’ve done is comply with the requirements of the Corporation Commission.”
Goldwater says he has no financial interests in solar beyond the ownership of a rooftop solar hot water system. “But I have a personal interest, because in the 1970s, I was on the congressional subcommittees that studied alternative energy technologies and policies. Mike McCormick and I passed and funded the first photovoltaic research and development legislation.”
He faulted APS for a lack of vision. “They failed to see the handwriting on the wall and get out in front and be a leader. They ought to be encouraging the private sector. But all you see is their heels dug in, just like when they tried to defeat the renewable portfolio standard.”
He also called into question APS' claims that solar imposes costs on non-solar-owning ratepayers. “As long as a ratepayer is paying for what he or she uses, there is no subsidy. If anything, rooftop solar is making a contribution.”
Goldwater finds much to criticize in APS' approach to solar. “They knew this was coming a long time ago and they were stupid not to get involved and get out in front of it. Their managers ought to be fired. Instead, they are taking it out on innovators and entrepreneurs in the free market who invested money and time and took a big risk.”
Finally, he condemns APS for inaction. “Innovation is happening all around APS, and they are sitting there like an elephant in a mud puddle.”
Goldwater is optimistic that the APS effort to weaken net metering will fail at the ACC.
“All of them are Republicans and conservatives who believe in [market] choice,” he said. “They will come down on the side of competition and against APS. They better, or they are in trouble. That’s why we have elections. If we don’t like the job they are doing, we will replace them. The people in the bleachers know a lot more about what’s going on down on the field than we give them credit for.”