A heated battle is taking place in Arizona between the fledgling solar industry and APS, the state’s largest energy company, which enjoys a state-granted near-monopoly over energy. In sunny Arizona, it is peculiar that solar energy is being portrayed as the bad guy. Since Arizona is a Republican-dominated state, APS is sneakily buying up influential Republicans, both directly and indirectly, to perpetuate its crony capitalism. The Washington Post refers to these Republicans as “some of the best pollsters and consultants money can buy.”
The spin goes like this, “stop subsidizing the solar industry.” The word “subsidy” is used to scare Republicans. The solar companies are being compared to Solyndra, the green energy company that went bankrupt despite receiving more than $500 million in loans from the Department of Energy.
The reality is, the solar industry is not being “subsidized.” Energy users who do not use APS power, but use their solar panels instead for power, are simply not being double-charged. When they are not using APS power, but are instead sending unused solar power energy back to the grid for others to use, they receive a rebate. This is known as “net metering” and has been in place since 2009. APS wants to eliminate this, which will essentially have the effect of charging solar users for APS power they do not use. Instead of receiving 15 cents per kilowatt-hour rebates for power the solar users send back to the grid, APS wants to reduce the rebate to 4 to 10 cents. This would add $50 to $100 a month to the power bills of solar users. The utility also wants to start charging solar users a monthly maintenance fee.
Solar users are saving everyone additional costs. As energy users dependent upon APS decrease their usage and move to solar power, fewer generating stations need to be built, and fewer distribution lines put into place. While it is true that solar users are paying less towards the maintenance costs of APS, it is because they are using less of APS’ services.