This Obscure Agency Crushed Solar Power in Arizona

Attorney Bill Mundell, candidate for Arizona Corporation Commission

“You can’t believe the corruption,” says Attorney Bill Mundell, candidate for Arizona Corporation Commission

Why isn’t Arizona the world capital of solar power? It’s a question that comes up all the time. The answer is that a five-man GOP board killed solar incentives while boosting rate hikes from dirty-technology electric companies.

The deceptively-named Arizona Corporation Commission, which is the state electric utility regulator, has been a cesspool of corruption that has crushed the incentives for homeowners to install rooftop solar panels.

Last year former Commission chairman Gary Pierce was indicted for taking bribes of $31,000 and property from a utility owner for Pierce’s vote in favor of a rate increase.

“It is the tip of the corruption iceberg. The Commission staff were calling me saying ‘you can’t believe the corruption and coziness between the commissioners and the utilities they’re supposed to be regulating,'” said Chandler attorney Bill Mundell, a former commissioner. He and former commissioner Sandra Kennedy are Democrats running for two open seats on the agency.

Major setback for solar

Last December, just one month after the election, the Commission voted to kill net metering for customers with rooftop solar systems. Net metering gave credits back to homeowners for surplus electricity they produced at full rates.

This was a major setback for solar energy and a decision that utilities cheered.

Meanwhile, the Commission gave Arizona Public Service, the state’s largest electric company, a 4.5% rate increase so it could collect another $95 million a year from its customers.

APS owns three coal-powered electric plants — the Four Corners Power Plant, located on the Navajo Indian Reservation in New Mexico; the Cholla Power Plant located in northeastern Arizona near Holbrook, and the Navajo Power Plant located on the Navajo Indian Reservation near Page, Arizona.

APS has been fighting subpoenas to find out if it spent ratepayers’ money to buy $3.2 million worth of ads to get two GOP commissioners elected during the 2014 race.

Former commissioner Sandra Kennedy is a Democratic candidate for the Commission.

Former commissioner Sandra Kennedy is a Democratic candidate for the Commission.

“It’s ridiculous that we’re not the solar capital of the world,” Mundell said. “Corruption has a direct impact on your utility bill. It all depends on the commissioners you elect.” Mundell ran for the Commission in 2016 and lost by 35,000 votes out of 2.3 million cast because of dark money spent by APS.

In the 2016 race, APS spent $3.4 million funding the Republican candidates’ campaigns with the sole purpose of defeating Mundell.

“That is why we are running as the integrity team and we’re going to make some changes,” said Kennedy, who was a corporation commissioner from 2008-2013. Earlier she was a state senator from Phoenix from 1993-1999 and a state representative from 1987-1991.

12 Responses to This Obscure Agency Crushed Solar Power in Arizona

  1. Sen. John Kavanagh

    “Net metering gave credits back to homeowners for surplus electricity they produced at full rates.” But did so even though the price of that energy was, at times, cheaper for the utilities to purchase elsewhere. Sounds more like a subsidy that non-solar ratepayers (often less economically advantaged than solar panel owners) were forced to pay to solar panel owners.

    While reasonable people may differ on the merits and demerits of net metering, it is deceptive and unjustified to call the ACC’s opposition to it corrupt.

    But you came to the right blog to go down that road or should I say slippery slope.

    • “Last year former Commission chairman Gary Pierce was indicted for taking bribes of $31,000 and property from a utility owner for Pierce’s vote in favor of a rate increase.” Sounds pretty corrupt to me.

      A Senator who takes money from the private prison industry and then votes to privatize prisons is certainly not corrupt. Not him! No siree!

      • For Sure Not Tom

        And people call me Jake! 🙂

      • Sen. John Kavanagh

        Nothing to do with net metering.

        • You’re the one who brought up corruption Senator. Guess you didn’t like the response?

          And I presume that like the rest of your party, you’re against net metering since it can benefit the average homeowner instead of your campaign donors.

          Anything to add Jake?

          • For Sure Not Tom

            As a matter of fact, I’ve been trying to get solar for the last few years, SolarCity won’t even give me a bid, saying Arizona is openly hostile to solar.

            So GOP policy is keeping me from hiring an American company to do work I want.

            Too bad, because I’d like to help SRP during peak hours, I’d like to save them some money by easing the need for another power plant as Arizona grows, and I’d like to spend the money I save on my power bill on some local businesses.

            Capitalism is the problem, while it’s a powerful engine for creating wealth, it has two critical flaws.

            It requires perpetual growth, and it does not include a way for a business that’s no longer needed to go out of business gracefully.

            So we get laws passed that are hostile to new technologies and keep us locked into 18th century tech, all so fossil fuel companies can fend off the inevitable for another decade or two.

            The Arizona sunshine is free and useless while the GOP runs Arizona, and the Arizona GOP is owned by the Koch brothers, two billionaires in the oil business who live in Kansas.

            Since I can’t spend the extra money I’d save having my own power station on the roof, I guess Arizona businesses won’t get my extra cash, and Little Cryin’ Johnny is fine with that.

            The Koch’s have bought and paid for our corporate commission, and Little Cryin’ Johnny seems fine with out of state interests making Arizona laws.

            https://www.desmogblog.com/2016/07/08/how-arizona-corporation-commission-turned-anti-solar-just-few-years

            Time for me to release my top secret memo on Little Cryin’ Johnny, it shows how he’s bad at negotiation taxpayer money with corporate vendors.

          • You’re right, the ultimate root of the problem is capitalism, unrestricted capitalism. Heavily regulated capitalism is what we had from the New Deal through the late ’60s and early ’70s.

            Speaking of stifling innovation, it’s tragic that China is the world’s leading producer of solar panels, something we’ve could have attained ourselves. But starting with St. Ronnie removing Jimmy Carter’s panels from the White House, we started cheating ourselves out of being the world’s leading solar innovator. How many great paying & stable careers has that cost the nation?

          • Sen. John Kavanagh

            The corruption issue was raised in the original post. You need to concentrate more. Focus and then comment on the issue and don’t evade with personal attacks.

          • For Sure Not Tom

            Oh, my, Little Cryin’ Johnny, I hate to point this out, but you seem to have been the one to start in on the insults.

            “But you came to the right blog to go down that road or should I say slippery slope.”

            Better luck next time.

    • Frances Perkins

      Pinnacle West, $3,000.

      • Frances Perkins

        For a State legislator from Fountain Hills who ran unopposed in 2016. Means nothing of course.