Enough Whining Already, APS

Solar Style September 4, 2013 0

Baby crying

For a monopoly that is rolling in money, that is surpassing its profit goals, Arizona Public Service sure likes to whine in the media.

And that goes for the entire utility industry, in which they completely failed to plan for the future.

An article in Environment & Energy looks at the solar battle in Arizona and across the nation. It captures well the tension over net metering policy between utilities like APS and solar companies.

The quotes from APS and the utility industry are striking not for what they say but what is not said.

Here’s what APS had to say: “Everybody that’s connected to the grid is utilizing the grid at some time, and solar customers are no exception,” said Greg Bernosky, manager of renewable energy programs for APS. “There are costs that solar customers avoid on their bills that are ultimately shifted to non-solar customers.”

Typical APS rhetoric. Blame the solar customers. Pit solar customers against non-solar customers. This does not align with the enthusiasm that APS CEO Don Brandt expressed a few years ago when he was feted for his vision and leadership for solar. There is a complete reversal in tone. Now APS is whining about “cost shifts” because they failed to plan for a future in which solar becomes a juggernaut source of energy.

APS had a hand in creating the mess they find themselves in—in which the popularity of a clean source of energy threatens their profits. So instead of acknowledging this massive failure, they like to blame the solar customers and paint them as greedy for wanting to retain the price structure that APS encouraged and promoted in the first place.

At least the utility leaders managed to infuse some sense of humility in their quote. Here’s David Owens, executive vice president of the Edison Electric Institute, a utility industry group: “The technology wasn’t as vibrant as it is today. It wasn’t anticipated at that time it would evolve to where it was evolving today,” he said.

So basically the entire utility industry completely failed to see that solar would emerge as a viable player in the energy industry and as a threat to the bottom lines of utilities. That is a major oversight and a major failure on the part of APS and the entire industry. And now they want to point fingers at the solar companies, the customers and anyone else in their way.

APS should not be allowed to tax energy efficiency and an emerging competitor out of business, any more than kerosene sought to do with the emergence of electricity. When the internet was created, programmers thought there would only be 15 or 20 places that would use it since computers were only located at universities or large research facilities. And McKinsey told their telephone company clients that the demand for cell phones would definitely be fewer than a million people.

It’s up to the Arizona Corporation Commission to set this right. Are they going to reward APS for its failure of vision and decide to end net metering?

Let’s hope the Commission’s vision is superior to that of APS and the utility industry. Failures in planning and shortfalls in vision should not be encouraged. Innovation should.

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