When utilities dismiss solar, they're called Luddites. But when utilities then attempt to get into solar themselves -- specifically residential solar -- they're called out for trying to crush the competition.
Arizona Public Service is the most prominent company caught between these standards. The utility has been widely criticized by solar companies for trying to stop industry growth. But when APS finally proposed its own plan to own and install residential systems across the state, the Solar Energy Industries Association called it a "Trojan horse" designed to cut out national installers.
Why the seeming contradiction?
Those in the solar industry who simultaneously take these stances argue that they're not contradicting themselves. That's because they're not talking about power companies in competitive markets -- only the regulated ones that are guaranteed a rate of return for their investments.
For example, under APS' 10-megawatt rooftop program, the utility will get to select a small group of local installers while potentially earning a return on the investment in an upcoming rate case. No third-party solar company has that luxury. (Power companies argue that solar owners are getting a similar subsidy from ratepayers by not paying their fair share for fixed grid costs.)
Whether the solar industry likes it or not, rate-based solar proposals are likely to grow around the country. Shayle Kann, GTM's senior VP, even made it his top solar prediction for 2015.
"Without placing any judgment on the merit of these ideas, I do believe many utilities are considering proposals of their own, and I predict at least three of them will be announced this year. Whether they are ultimately implemented is another question entirely," wrote Kann.
GTM won't make judgments about these programs. But we've found two people who will.
At our upcoming Solar Summit in Phoenix, Shayle Kann and I will be hosting a debate on the following motion: "Regulated utilities should be allowed to own and rate-base residential solar."
Lon Huber, a former advisor at Arizona's ratepayer advocate and current director of Strategen Consulting's government and utility program, will be arguing in favor of the motion.
Court Rich, a senior partner at the Rose Law Group, will be arguing against the motion.
Make sure to join us for that debate by registering for the conference, taking place in Phoenix April 14-16. If you can't make it, stay tuned for a livestream of the debate on Wednesday, April 15 at 10:45 a.m. PST.
You can also get involved in the debate by casting your vote below: