Goldwater Jr.: View on rooftop solar misses the mark - East Valley Tribune: Opinion

Goldwater Jr.: View on rooftop solar misses the mark

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Barry Goldwater Jr. is a former U.S. Congressman and the Chairman of T.U.S.K. (Tell Utilities Solar won’t be Killed). Learn more about T.U.S.K. at dontkillsolar.com

Posted: Thursday, September 12, 2013 6:49 am | Updated: 8:12 am, Mon Sep 16, 2013.

Most of the time, I agree with Tom Patterson. We share conservative values. He chairs the Goldwater Institute. However when it comes to the future of energy choice, Tom has missed the mark.

In a recent Tribune commentary, Patterson states,“Companies should be able to deal with solar customers as they please” (East Valley Tribune; Aug. 14).

Tom went on to ask: “Should the Arizona Corporation Commission provide yet another subsidy to solar energy production?” The question implies that solar energy is the only source of energy receiving government subsidies. That is far from the truth.

In a recent study by the Environmental Law Institute it was documented that between 2002 and 2008, fossil fuels have received $72 billion in government subsidies and all renewable energy programs received $29 billion. About half of the renewable subsidies went to corn-based ethanol programs.

Every source of energy gets some tax treatment. Tom and I are in agreement, get rid of all the subsidies. That, however, is not the real world we live in.

From the beginning, APS ignored rooftop solar, the market for which was filled by entrepreneurs, investors and risk-takers. These risk-takers did so under existing rules set by the Congress, the Arizona Legislature, and the Corporation Commission. Because of innovation, rooftop solar energy is beginning to take off. For the first time APS customers are being given a choice.

My friend Tom Patterson and APS can’t stand it. They claim they are losing money.

Recently, I met with 200 motivated and skilled employees at VerengoSolar’s call center in Ahwatukee. These workers are employed thanks to the growth of solar energy nationwide. Solar has created thousands of jobs right here in Arizona.

The solar industry is not asking for more subsidies. We ask for fair treatment by the utilities, not for the utilities to “treat us as they please,” as Mr. Patterson suggests.

APS could have gotten into the rooftop solar business but it was lazy and turned its back on this market. APS has its head in the sand. Instead of embracing and encouraging new energy technology, they want to follow the same worn out business plan that has been around for a century.

The utilities as we know them today will go the way of the typewriter, and big “Ma Bell” unless they get with it and come up with a business plan that is about the future, not the past. This is about customer choice, not continued monopoly. This is about what is good for customers, not just share-holders.

Individuals like Tom Patterson are living in the past. They like the status quo. I am hopeful our Corporation Commission is looking to the future.

The costs of rooftop solar is rapidly coming down because of scale, innovation, investment and the free market. Back off APS, back off Tom Patterson, let this fledgling rooftop solar live, breath and grow. APS should not kill solar rooftop energy just as it becomes competitive. Wake up and show some leadership for a change.

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