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Amidst Major Solar Battle, Arizona’s Largest Utility Quietly Renews ALEC Membership

By Kiley Kroh

"Amidst Major Solar Battle, Arizona’s Largest Utility Quietly Renews ALEC Membership"

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CREDIT: AP Photo/Gurinder Osan

As hearings begin to determine the fate of Arizona’s booming solar industry, Arizona Public Service, the state’s largest utility, quietly renewed its membership in the corporate anti-clean energy group the American Legislative Exchange Council after publicly leaving it in 2012.

APS spokesman Jim McDonald told the Arizona Capitol Times the utility pays $7,000 in membership fees and an additional $3,000 to have a seat on ALEC’s Energy, Environment and Agriculture Task Force. “ALEC is a pro-business organization. We support lots of pro-business organizations,” McDonald said. “We’re a proud member of ALEC.”

ALEC’s ‘pro-business’ backers feature a host of corporations and individuals opposed to clean energy, including numerous fossil fuel interests and the billionaire ultra-conservative Koch brothers. In 2012, the organization set its sights on clean energy and tried to repeal states’ renewable energy laws and despite failing in every instance, shows no intention of relenting.

In Arizona, Arizona Public Service is currently embroiled in a major fight over solar energy and on Wednesday the state’s energy regulator, Arizona Corporation Commission (ACC), will begin hearings into how much customers should be compensated for the energy produced by solar panels installed on their homes and businesses. Solar advocates argue that if the policy, known as net metering, is altered to charge consumers more, it could deal a death-blow to their rapidly growing industry.

In addition to their ALEC membership, APS has come under fire recently after admitting that it had been secretly contributing to outside nonprofits running negative ads against solar power, namely the Koch-backed group “60 Plus.”

And the ACC has its own connections to the conservative, anti-clean energy group. A Think Progress analysis found four of the five commissioners have ties to ALEC, including Commissioner Robert Burns who recently announced a probe into the APS funding of 60 Plus.

Currently 43 states and the District of Columbia have net metering policies in place to encourage the growth of technologies like rooftop solar. According to The Washington Post, the implications of Arizona’s fight extend far beyond the state’s borders: “For the solar industry, if rates consumers can charge drop to a point at which solar panels aren’t economically viable in Arizona, sales could plummet. For the utility companies, a victory in Arizona would set the ball rolling in other states where net metering rules are up for debate.”

A look at ALEC’s agenda for the December convening of its Energy, Environment and Agriculture task force shows they are well aware of the opportunity to attack net metering nationwide. The task force will consider a resolution “calling on states to update net metering policies so that anyone who uses the grid in any way — even adding energy to it — would have to pay a fixed charge or some other rate mechanism,” EcoWatch reported.

Jason Rose, a veteran Republican consultant working for the solar industry, told The Washington Post, “If the utilities are able to upend rooftop solar in Arizona, the sunniest state, then imagine what they can do everywhere else.”

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