Governor Jan Brewer likes to call herself the “Solar Queen.” She often talks about her own personal use of solar power and the fact that under her administration, solar industries have been booming in Arizona.
But just as they are doing with Medicaid expansion, Tea Party Republicans, in the name of principle, are set to deal a major blow to our economy and crush one of this state’s thriving industries.
In January the Arizona Corporation Commission ended tax credits for businesses that install rooftop solar panels, which has effectively ended the incentive for businesses to go green.
Though some may believe solar subsidies are government hand outs, I’m wondering how it differs from the other energy subsidies we give away. What makes fossil fuel and nuclear power subsides okay but clean energy subsidies bad? If we’re going to offer energy subsidies, doesn’t it make sense to subside an energy that’s renewable?
Ending corporate tax breaks may be just the beginning of solar’s demise in Arizona. The biggest and most contentious fight, the possible end of “net metering,” is just around the corner.
Net metering deals exclusively with Arizona’s residential customers, specifically those 25,000 Arizonans that have installed solar photovoltaic (PV) panels on their roofs. Many of these solar roofs exist in the very conservative suburb of Sun City and make Arizona second only to California in numbers of rooftop solar installations.
Residents with rooftop solar are allowed to “bank” the excess power they produce and use it during those times when the panels are not producing or under-producing the energy needed by that household.
Of course, the power isn’t actually banked but rather put back on the grid for other customers to use. Often times, the excess power coming back onto the grid is used during peak hours (noon-7pm), when electricity is most expensive. If a customer has put enough power back on the grid that he/she has an abundance of banked electricity, APS will rebate the customer at the end of the year.
APS, like most energy monopolies around the country, isn’t a fan of net metering because it cuts into their profits. They are encouraging the Corporation Commission to end net metering and effectively end Arizona’s rise as the solar capitol.
The newly elected, all Republican Commission has been very complacent when dealing with APS, which is somewhat surprising considering it was a Republican commission that first implemented Arizona’s renewable energy standards. But the party has changed, and many politicos believe they will now grant the utility’s wishes and put an end to net metering.
The impact of that stretches beyond the many thousands of residents who currently benefit from rooftop solar. Without net metering the incentive to install a costly technology goes away. It also harms a growing Arizona industry, not to mention the damage done to our environment by an overreliance on fossil fuels.
It is widely expected that if net metering ends, many of our solar installation companies will leave business-friendly Arizona and move to California, taking with them thousands of jobs, and Arizona’s growing dominance in solar will come to a screeching halt.
But it’s all in the name of principle. Principles that put fossil fuels over solar and monopolies over customers.