Arizona has been one of North America's great solar success stories. With ample sun, open space, and high demand for energy, it's no wonder they are first in installed solar per capita. But dark clouds are gathering. A new proposal from one of Arizona's largest utilities would impose a $100 per month fee on home and business owners that install solar panels for the "privilege" of selling their electricity back to the grid. This would amount to a substantial roll-back of the overall consumer benefit to having solar installed in the first place. The action would completely nullify the cheaper electricity price enjoyed by customers of the no-money-down leased systems that are so prolific in the Southwest, but that seems to be the intent.
With the unprecedented cost reductions in solar over the last few years, many folks in certain U.S. markets have been able to sign long-term lease agreements locking in a cheaper electricity rate from the third-party-owned solar panels on the roof. This trend is threatening the traditional utility model and utility profits. The reaction has been outrageous policy proposals with little public benefit in an attempt to counter renewable energy's progress. Some have noted that the Arizona
Corporation Commission (Arizona's Public Utility Commission) is closely allied with the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC), a group pushing model right wing laws within states. It wouldn't be the first time ALEC's tried to roll back, repeal, or otherwise diminish state renewable energy progress.
Already in 2013, there have been a total of 121 bills introduced in the states that dealt with Renewable Energy Portfolio Standards. Twenty-nine of these bills proposed
strengthening those standards, 26 seek to roll them back, and 66
proposed modifications. "Modifications" included positive and negative changes, including attempts to "water down" portfolio standards by including hydro-electric and other non-renewable sources. In
some of these cases ALEC’s legislative recommendations were used in the attempt to damage
state renewable energy policy. Of all of the attempts, only eight have succeeded and all of these were simple modifications. To date in 2013, ALEC has failed, and failed miserably.
This story is far from over. Far from Arizona, Pennsylvania continues to be in the cross-hairs of clean energy opponents that want to weaken our Alternative Energy Portfolio Standards. PennFuture's Energy Center has been on high alert, and we remain vigilant in our defense of Pennsylvania's economic and clean energy interests.