Last week I attended a public hearing before the Water and Energy Committee on SB1417, a new bill set to create unnecessary obstacles for Arizona’s solar industry. As the bill passed through committee, I found myself frustrated this new piece of legislation is being introduced only 42 days after a similar bill, SB1465, went into effect in January 2016.
As an ethical business owner, I was supportive of SB1465 last year, as I believe the industry needed strong consumer protections and disclosure requirements, as well as transparency in industry sales and marketing materials. However, to introduce a new, somewhat redundant bill with less than 2 months to judge the effectiveness of the current law, seems both premature and a blatant attack on small, local solar installers.
I have been in the solar industry in Arizona for eight years now and in my opinion, SB1417 takes aim at the national solar leasing companies while also protecting the interests of monopoly utilities. It seems there is no thought put toward how it may affect small, local solar companies however – or the people we employ.
During my public comment, I pleaded with the committee to allow adequate time for the current law to have a chance to work before passing further burdensome regulations. SB1417 does not provide an enforcement mechanism either. It only proves to provide several redundancies, and makes compliance impossible without compelling the utility companies to cooperate with solar companies. If nobody is enforcing the current law, what good would a new law do? If Arizonans support the free market principles constantly espoused from the Senate, why not enforce the current law and allow the free market to work?
Senator Lesko responded to my comments and concern by extending an invitation to meet and for me to potentially participate in a solar stakeholder meeting happening in the same week. When I reached out to Senator Lesko’s office to inquire about the details of the stakeholder meeting, I was denied participation. Apparently only lobbyists are stakeholders in the senator’s opinion. I find it shamefully ironic that a transparency bill would intentionally omit transparency in its amendment process by denying the input and voice of a local solar company owner.
If the Arizona Legislature continues to reject stakeholder input from small solar businesses like mine, the results will be manifested in the loss of more solar jobs and locally-owned, small solar businesses. As we’re in one of the sunniest states in the nation, with the fastest growing job market, I would urge this Legislature to provide a transparent amendment process that protects the interests of small business and the local economy, not just lobbyists of well-funded big business and utility monopolies.
Brandon Cheshire is owner of SunHarvest Solar