Once upon a time… Net metering gave Arizona solar customers full credit on their utility bills for the valuable power they produce. It put Arizonans in charge of their energy choices and utility costs like never before. It helped reduce the need for expensive, polluting power infrastructure, building healthier and more resilient communities. It spurred growth in Arizona’s new energy economy, supporting thousands of jobs and kept energy dollars invested in our communities. Thanks to the Arizona Corporation Commission’s leadership, Arizonans could now count on continuing to get fair credit for a solar investment that benefit us all. Though I wish this all were true, it’s just a fairy tale.
But, do you know where this is true? It’s now true in both Colorado and Nevada. Both the Nevada, and Colorado public utility commissions ruled that existing net metering policies are good the way they are. “The public loves renewables, and we are not going to be altering the net metering policy” is how one Colorado public commissioner put it.
“Only Arizona utilities have had a modest victory in attacking net metering policies.” said the president and CEO of New York Power Authority on last week’s Science Friday on NPR. He also referred to a new paradigm the utilities need to embrace and evolve. “Public utilities have embraced the change to solar, the big grid is necessary, but it must evolve. Control your destiny or someone else will.” That was the message to utility executives. But will they listen?
Back here in Arizona, we have a public commission that is currently inundated with accusations of scandal, corruption, cronyism, election engineering, and three of the current five commissioners are under investigation. Maybe under these circumstances we have an opportunity. Maybe with the recent regional victories we have reason to hope for a change. Maybe?
We are on the cusp of a solar revolution, this is for sure. Some utilities are not happy about it and this is very much the case here in Arizona. But like nature, things evolve out of necessity. If we can take any lessons away from our recent monsoon storm, it is that in a place where water is scarce and we’re seeing record-breaking temperatures every year, our reliance on the grid poses a large public health and safety issue. To not evolve and embrace clean, renewable energy is not only irresponsible but also extremely short-sighted. If Arizona utilities and commissioners don’t wake up soon, they may find themselves in the position of being the dinosaur. We hope they opt for turning our fairy tale into a reality.