An Arizona utility commissioner is asking for all parties in the state’s brewing solar controversy to come clean – and says he is concerned that public funds could have been used to run an ad campaign against solar power.
The Arizona Corporation Commission’s Robert Burns on Wednesday sent a letter to Arizona Public Service and other groups involved in the state’s debate over net metering, saying he is “troubled by the magnitude and cost of recent public relations campaigns” around the net-metering question before the commission, and is “concerned that ratepayer money might be funding these campaigns,” the Huffington Post reports. Burns is asking the groups to disclose how much money and staff time they have put into lobbying and PR on the issue.
The battle in Arizona stems from changes to net metering rules proposed by utility Arizona Public Service, which wants the state to levy a charge of $50-$100 or more on customers who install solar panels.
APS last week admitted provided money to two conservative non-profits, 60 Plus and Propser, that ran anti-solar ads. The company lied for months about the payments, the Huffington Post says. The Alliance for Solar Choice has asked the ACC and Arizona attorney general’s office to investigate if APS used ratepayer money to support the non-profits who ran the anti-solar ads.
This brewing controversy will only serve to create bad blood on both sides of an issue that requires a considered, rational response. All parties have an interest in ensuring that distributed renewable development is encouraged, but also carefully planned and budgeted for. APS’s underhanded actions have unfortunately only served to bolster public perception of utilities as ideologically anti-renewable, when in most cases they only wish to ensure that they are properly compensated and that the reliability of the electric grid is not threatened.
Burns asked for responses to his request by this Wednesday, and the ACC is slated to begin hearings on the net metering proposal this month. APS, and other parties, should do themselves a favor by answering his questions in full.