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Battle over rooftop solar heats up

Dem Corporation Commission candidates question Republicans’ commitment to solar energy

Supporters of Arizona’s solar industry blasted Arizona Public Service’s proposals to change the state’s solar energy incentives as an effort to kill the solar industry.

APS, Arizona’s largest utility provider, has formally proposed two changes to how Arizona residents with rooftop solar panels are compensated for the excess energy their solar panels provide – a practice known as net metering.

Changes proposed by APS, which must be approved by the Arizona Corporation Commission, could lower the discount residents receive on their energy bills thanks to solar panels from 70 percent to as low as 20 percent a month.

Former Congressman Barry Goldwater, Jr., chairman of T.U.S.K. – Tell Utilities Solar won’t be Killed – said APS missed the chance to embrace solar energy in the past, and is now trying to destroy the industry in order to boost its own profits.
“Instead of killing rooftop solar energy, I’m asking APS to be a leader in this state,” Goldwater said at a Tuesday morning press conference at the Capitol. “Get out in front and show some leadership!”

Goldwater was joined by business leaders, including executives from SolarCity, a national solar energy firm, and local leaders such as officials from Sun City, which has embraced solar energy as a viable alternative energy source for some of its municipal facilities.

APS contends the net metering system is unsustainable. But solar users point to a recent study by Crossborder Energy, a California-based energy consultant, which found that APS benefits from solar panels to the tune of $34 million a year over a 20-year period.

Meghan Nutting, director of government affairs for SolarCity, said APS’s only interest is protecting its bottom line.

“The utility doesn’t want to compete with solar companies like us,” Nutting said at the press conference. “We can’t let them use the government to help them protect their profit margins.”

Goldwater urged APS to embrace the industry rather than fight it.

“I’m just asking APS to quit digging your heels in, to quit trying to kill this fledgling industry that has grown up because you did not fill the void,” Goldwater said. “Work with us. Don’t try to kill us.”

Hearings on the issue before the Corporation Commission are expected to begin in the next few weeks.

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