To begin to understand why Arizona Public Service would want to pick a fight with the solar industry and attack such a popular energy resource, you might begin by reading the Edison Electric Institute’s paper, “Disruptive Challenges: Financial Implications and Strategic Responses to a Changing Retail Electric Business.” Patrick O’Grady of the Phoenix Business Journal references it in this article from Friday: http://m.bizjournals.com/phoenix/blog/business/2013/05/aps-other-utilities-grapple-with.html?r=full
The most prominent of the “disruptive forces” of course is solar. The disruption is the threat to their business model, as O’Grady puts it. In other words, the disruption of their ability to amass huge profits.
The Edison paper imagines the day when, as traditional landline telephone customers have done, electric customers one day “cut the cord” and forgo the big power utility in favor of a newer and cheaper technology. You know that has to scare the bejeezus out of the APS brass. They read something like this and are harshly reminded that they are Kodak just as film went digital; they are rotary phones; they are joystick Atari; they are knee-high socks with shorts; they are folded roadmaps; they are beepers and they are compact discs. It’s scary knowing that you have to do something and do something quick because your long-term survival could be at stake.
It is because of that fear that APS is mapping out its survival plan. That plan starts with the destruction of net metering and it ends with killing the solar industry entirely. Now, APS will never admit to such a thing. Because polls show that its customers, and most Arizonans, like the solar option. The state’s thriving solar industry is developing into a real source of pride for those who live here. Arizona and the sun are a natural fit. Add in the state’s appetite for pro-business policies and low taxes and rates and you can see why APS thinks sees solar as an existential threat. The question is, in the end, will the Arizona Corporation Commission agree?
Hopefully APS will also realize that they will not be allowed to get away with running solar out of town. Their Arizona solar struggle is now getting unwanted attention from watchers around the state and around the country. They can plaster Chase Field with as many “We Love Solar” billboards as they like but it won’t change the real fact that their customers, and Arizonans, know the real story.