Monday, December 12, 2011

Corporation Commission meeting this week to gut solar power's future in Arizona

As the calendar moves inexorably to the holidays, most political bodies in the state try to get any work they need to perform done during the early part of the month so that they enjoy those holidays.
One of the side effects of the holiday rush is that the average member of the public isn't really paying attention to political matters during the holiday, both because of the large number of items on agendas and because they have a lot going on in their personal lives.
Many bodies use the chaos of the holidays and the laxity in public oversight to push through some of the less palatable measures before them to help minimize the ability of opponents to organize.
One of those bodies is the Arizona Corporation Commission, particularly since the election of former ALEC president Brenda Burns.  While Gary Pierce, rumored to be mulling a run for Congress, is the chair of the ACC, the addition of Burns in 2010 signaled the change of the ACC from an industry regulatory agency into an industry front group.  Burns replaced the term-limited Kris Mayes

The ACC is meeting Tuesday and Wednesday, and some of the items on its agenda illustrate just this.

Docket numbers E-01345A-11-0264 (APS), E-01933A-11-0269 (Tucson Electric Power) and E-04204A-11-0267 (UNS Electric) relate to approval of those companies' 2012 Renewable Energy Standard implementation plans (enter those docket numbers into the ACC's E-Docket webpage for more info).

Those items sound wonky and more than a little technical, because they are.  However, one of the little gems hidden deep in the provisions of the plans is that they basically end any real incentives for those utility companies to "go solar."

However, while solar incentives are being slashed, tax breaks for coal-fired generating plants remain in place (note: those are controlled by the legislature, not the ACC).  The impetus behind this appears to be a reverence for accounting principles over scientific principles -

The utility corporations have a lot of money tied up in their coal (and nuclear) facilities and want to maximize their profits from those.  Solar power, particularly distributed solar power, is both more sustainable and lower cost than those, and would lead to lower profits.

On top of that, the Rs on the Commission have taken steps to declare that inefficient, high-cost energy generated by *trash burning* plants is "green", or renewable, and deserves as much or more support than solar power.

Apparently, for the three Rs on the ACC, Burn, Pierce, and Bob Stump, and the corporations that they are working for (instead of regulating), "energy efficiency" is more about generating profits in the most efficient way than in generating (and using) energy in a more efficient and sustainable way.

Anyway, people who are interested in weighing in on the renewable energy standard items, or any other items on the agenda, are advised to watch the meeting(s) this week via the ACC's online streaming video page.  ACC meetings tend to run long, so you are better off staying aware of when your item of interest is coming up, and then heading down to the meeting than in trying to sit through the entire session.

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