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APS: $3.7 million spent on metering publicity

Small gifts make big – and murky – difference in campaign finance transparencyArizona Public Service, the state’s largest energy company, told regulators Nov. 6 that its parent corporation has spent $3.7 million dollars to fight for a drastic reduction to a key rooftop solar incentive in Arizona.

The figure dwarfs the $336,000 the rooftop solar industry has reported spending to fight against the proposal. Rooftop solar companies told regulators they anticipated spending $100,000 more this month.

The disclosure of PR spending by each side comes in response to a request by Arizona Corporation Commissioner Bob Burns, who said in a letter last week that he was “troubled” by the vicious communication campaigns that have dominated the debate in recent months.

Specifically, Burns wanted to know whether APS had been using ratepayer revenues to bankroll a campaign to promote an adjustment to the rates. APS said the money was spent not by the utility, and thus did not using ratepayer revenue. Instead, the money was from the profits of Pinnacle West Capital Corporation, the publicly-held investment firm that owns APS.

The policy at the center of the debate is net metering, which currently allows APS customers to install rooftop solar panels that can offset their utility-provided energy consumption and that can produce excess energy that is purchased back by APS. APS executives have argued that net metering customers are subsidized by those who do not use solar energy.

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