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April 16, 2013

Host: Ted Simons

Focus on Sustainability: Solar Energy Poll

  • A new poll shows that Arizonans are committed to solar power. Spokesman Jason Rose and Solar Energy Industry Attorney Court Rich will discuss the poll and the role of solar power in Arizona.
  • Jason Rose - Spokesman, Solar Energy
  • Court Rich - Industry Attorney, Solar Energy
Category: Sustainability   |   Keywords: sustainability, poll, solar power, ,

View Transcript
Ted Simons: Tonight's focus on sustain ability, a new poll that seems to show widespread support for solar power in Arizona and widespread opposition to elected officials that oppose solar development. Here to discuss -- Jason Rose and Court Rich. Let's talk about what this poll was designed to look at. What did you look at and what did you find?

Jason Rose: The reason we're sitting here is because APS is proposing a very hostile move to essentially end rooftop solar in Arizona. We're representing a group of rooftop solar companies, banks, consumers, new coalition, TUSK, tell utilities solar won't be killed led by Barry Goldwater, Jr. And what we found was absolutely not -- Manson getting out of prison may be more popular -- the corporation commission is now all republican, and frankly, solar has been seen as a democratic issue in the past. What we saw in the over sample of republicans why widespread support for solar programs in Arizona. And widespread opposition to the programs that APS is proposing.

Ted Simons: I want to crunch numbers in a second. To the point of what utilities are doing, we have talked about this quite a bit on the program. Encapsulate for us what you are seeing out there as far as residential and commercial solar development.

Court Rich: Sure, one thing that is apparent, utilities are comfortable and they like their Monopoly. They have come up with a strategy where they have tried to say we want to take away the ability of consumers to choose how they get their electricity. APS for one has been no competition for 100 years. If I'm a homeowner, to very recently, I could never do anything else except get my electricity from the government-regulated Monopoly. Now I have a choice. I can go out and put solar panels on my roof. I can invest that money. I can save money at the end of the day and exercise that choice. Arizonans like choice and personal freedom.

Define net metering and how that factors into all this.

Court Rich: Net metering is successful policy in 43 states. Net metering, we are forced to buy electricity from the utility at a certain price. The utility is forced to buy electricity from solar panels on residential or commercial rooftops at that same price. It makes a lot of sense. If they want to sell energy to you at a certain price they should buy it from you at that same price.

Ted Simons: We had commissioner pierce on and we were talking about this. I want you to listen to what he had to say. He was concerned about performance based subsidies. Let's listen.

SOT: It's time for that subsidy on the performance-based incentive to go away. That is a legacy cost. The legacy cost means those performance-based incentives. They are performance based. You get them once a year for years. We built up in APS's territory, $735 million of legacy costs which will go on. People will say there are no more incentives -- no, we have created through these rules which were created in 2006, we have created a monster of additional charges that will have to be paid over the next 20 years.

Ted Simons: Respond to that, please.

Court Rich: Sure. Here is what is great about the solar industry. It is different than about APS and other Monopolies. Solar industry is moving away from incentives. Getting off of incentives every day. Arizona, by the end of the year, likely will have no incentives left for rooftop solar. APS's subsidies, how are they able to benefit from subsidies. I think we need to look at that. That is a big difference.

Ted Simons: As far as the poll was concerned, what was asked? This can be awfully complicated. How did you present the question and what kind of responses did you get?

Jason Rose: Again, we wanted to have Republican pollster with impeccable republican credentials to do it so it couldn't be construed as a lefty or liberal pole. We did that. We released the poll. It’s on various website. You can get it. What we would say, Ted, if anyone takes exception to the way that we worded these questions, challenge APS. Go out and do your own survey on solar issues, and see what they have to say. What they will find specifically with Republicans is this. Is republicans are flocking to energy choice. Similar to the way they have with school choice and health care choice. And I think that is a very important dynamic that we saw in these numbers. And hopefully our republican commissioners will review that and appreciate that sentiment.

Ted Simons: I remember hosting a debate for the Arizona corporation commission and it seemed as though the concept of solar was, as you mentioned earlier, much more of a democratic issue, much more skepticism, if not outright hostility coming from the republican side. When did all of this change?

Jason Rose: I think there is a gradual evolution on this issue. Also, let's not forget. This is Arizona. This is not the state of Washington. The sun is a great strength. That is what Barry Goldwater said. He said getting rid of Solar in Arizona is not the republican way and it is not the Arizona way. I think we will continue to see resilience in these numbers. One of the key numbers in the poll was if an elected official is seen as ending the solar program, which is essentially what APS is trying to do in Arizona, the pollster called that quote, political malpractice.

Ted Simons: Why is APS doing this? I can understand protecting your own interest to a certain degree. This seems relatively radical, am I missing something there?

Court Rich: What they see, they're a Monopoly and they do not like competition. They figured out every time a consumer in Arizona puts solar panels on their roof, APS sells a little less electricity and that does not work for a Monopoly that never had to deal with that before. That is exactly what they're trying do. Trying to take away that choice and option.

Ted Simons: As far as the Arizona corporation commission as it is so tabled here, are you seeing -- are you seeing more of this, what Jason is mentioning, this new republican idea of choice in utility?

Court Rich: We're in the middle of a process where they're reviewing this. Certainly the industry is disappointed that we are even talking about this. Why are we out there? Why aren't we talking about APS's subsidies? Why would we only look an alleged subsidy to the solar industry when that industry is getting away from subsidies.

Ted Simons: What do we take from this poll?

Jason Rose: We take from the poll that solar is the computer, APS's Monopoly is the typewriter. Elected officials would be on the side of the future in computers and not on the side of the typewriter.