What’s happening in Arizona right now is sufficient to make every conservative shudder. And I’m not talking about the border crisis. I am talking about the state’s largest regulated utility, Arizona Public Service (APS). APS is literally attempting to purchase its regulators in the state’s August 26th Republican primary (early ballots go out this week). If successful, the implications are national, especially for fledgling solar power, and crony capitalism will have a new model that will boomerang on the Republican Party.
First, a little background. APS has concluded that too much energy choice via rooftop solar is bad for it. The more people turn their lights off, making an energy choice of rooftop solar, the less money the publicly-traded electric monopoly makes. In sunny Arizona, people are understandably going solar as costs have come down – even though subsidies have gone away – by the tens of thousands. As their energy costs have skyrocketed in some areas, churches, schools, seniors, rich, poor, you name them - everyone is considering a switch to the less-costly solar.
Last year, APS attempted to get the all-Republican Arizona Corporation Commission, its regulators, to pass a massive new tax that would make going with rooftop solar too expensive. By a 3-to-2 vote, the commissioners rejected the APS plan to “tax the sun,” but still passed a much smaller tax.
Well, APS didn’t like that very much. Who were these Republicans after all, to discover that energy choice should be much like school and health care choice?