Tag Archives: Arizona Public Service

Stockholder protest of APS Wednesday morning

Crossposted from DemocraticDiva.com

aps protest

I meant to post this earlier in the week but better late than never. If you are available tomorrow morning at 9:30 (Wednesday May 20) please join some folks at the Heard Museum as they let stockholders at the state’s largest utility company, Arizona Public Service (APS), know how they feel about the company’s underhanded electioneering tactics.

In 2013, APS and its parent company, Pinnacle West first denied and then admitted to using dark money sources to try to convince you that solar energy home installations where bad for Arizona –a charge that is questionable, at best.

Then in 2014, Pinnacle West is thought to have spent, over $3 million of rate-payer-derived funds to elect Corporation Commission candidates that it backed.

The Corporation Commission is the very body that regulates Pinnacle West and, specifically, what it can charge you for electricity. The conflict of interest here is staggering. Continue reading

APS cannot sanitize its shameful dark money legacy with strategic philanthropy and Anderson Cooper

Crossposted from DemocraticDiva.com

aps logo
Dark money has the power to make a lot happen!

Last Saturday the ASU Center for the Study of Race and Democracy hosted an event, “Delivering Democracy Lecture 2015”, headlined by Anderson Cooper. I know many people who attended it and, from what I understand, it was a fine presentation. One of the main sponsors was Arizona Public Services (commonly known as APS, the state’s largest private utility company), which was apparently lauded several times during the event for its generosity. Which is interesting because it was only a few months ago, during the 2014 midterms, that APS (under the rubric of “independent expenditure” Save Our Future Now) dumped an astounding amount of dark money into Corporation Commission races to defeat Republican candidate Vernon Parker in the GOP primary and Democratic candidate Sandra Kennedy. What the aforementioned people have in common is that they are both African-American and also that the hit pieces and ads run against both were crudely obvious Willie Horton-style racist characterizations as far as many people (myself included) were concerned. Continue reading

2014 is the Year ACC Stood for “Arizona Captured Commission”

Regulatory capture is a form of political corruption occuring when a regulatory agency, such as Arizona’s Corporation Commission (ACC), created to act in the public interest, instead advances the special concerns of commercial or interest groups that dominate the industry or sector it is charged with regulating.

In the same year that Harvard University Center for Ethic’s ranked Arizona as the country’s most corrupt state, the integrity of the ACC was called into question repeatedly, and Commissioners did very little to persuade the public that their agency was any different than the norm for our state.

Led by the affable Bob Stump, the ACC in just two years has taken steps right off the Christmas wish list of Arizona Public Service CEO Don Brandt, including slashing commercial solar incentives to zero in early 2013, rushing into a first-of-its-kind tax on rooftop solar despite a complete lack of analysis from ACC staff (they asked for more time), and treating Arizona’s 15% renewable energy standard as a ceiling rather than a floor.

Now the Commission is considering what could end up being the most backwards step the agency has taken in its history – the abolishment of Arizona’s successful energy efficiency resource standard which requires utilities to be more efficient and has already saved ratepayers an estimated $540 million according to APS’s annual demand side management reports.

Stump has presided over a Commission that has ushered in, by its inaction and silence, an unprecedented era of spending by monopoly APS on public relations and influence. After accidently spending thousands in the 2012 election supporting Stump, Susan Bitter Smith, and Bob Burns, APS opened the floodgates of election cash in 2014, spending a total estimated at over $3 million to ensure two Commissioners friendly to its interests would take office next month.

Starting in January, all five Commissioners will have reached their post at least in part thanks to APS election dollars. Any future candidate for the Commission will now know that to speak out against the utilities might mean getting buried in utility-funded attack ads.

Our Commissioners, tasked by Arizona’s founders with protecting the public by diligently regulating our state’s utilities, have responded with a collective yawn. I’m dreading to find out what the Arizona Captured Commission has in store for 2015.

Reach the author at williambgreene9@gmail.com

2014 General Election is all about APS; Republican voters should be very concerned

Crossposted from the Arizona Eagletarian

Yesterday afternoon, Arizona Republic columnist Laurie Roberts asked the question, “Why is APS doling out cash to get Mark Brnovich elected?” It’s an excellent question.

Unfortunately, Roberts didn’t come up with an answer.

It’s not really a legitimate rhetorical question if the audience/readers cannot answer it for themselves. There is, however, a clear answer available. Voters — especially Republicans whose interests are being subverted — need to become aware of the background, reasons and the stakes involved. Continue reading

Takeaways from Last Week’s Rooftop Solar Squabble

by Will Greene

“The eyes of the country and the energy world at least are on Arizona to see what we can come up with.”  Bob Stump, chairman Arizona Corporation Commission in the USA Today on the ACC’s net metering decision.

As Chairman Stump predicted, last week’s ACC proceedings captured the attention, and dollars, of utilities and clean energy advocates across the country.  Utilities tuned in to see what they might be able to get away with in their own states.  Clean energy advocates followed closely in order to prep for the next wave of attacks by fossil-energy powers on the infant renewable energy industry.

Arizona voters learned the most.

Commissioners opted, in a 3-2 vote, for a $5 per month charge on the average-size rooftop solar system installed in APS territory after December 31st, 2013.  The two “no” voters, Brenda Burns and Gary Pierce, wanted a higher charge.  As Commissioners heard public comment, which was overwhelmingly opposed to a charge on rooftop solar, hundreds of solar supporters rallied outside, some sticking around for hours to earn their chance to speak.

Here are my key takeaways from the two-day marathon-meeting:

(1)    Those who thought newbie Commissioners Bob Burns or Susan Bitter Smith would cede to Commission veterans Gary Pierce or Brenda Burns throughout their first terms, were mistaken, and this was especially apparent last week.  Burns has surprised many with an independence streak, culminating in an historic request for transparency from APS only weeks before the net metering vote, forcing the utility to disclose dark-money activities.  Ratepayers can only hope Burns continues down the rabbit hole of utility “extracurricular spending”, which includes lobbying, public relations blitzes, needless advertising, campaign contributions (including to ACC candidates), and donations to seemingly every organization under the sun, from Chamber of Commerce groups on down to mom-and-pop charities.  Burns could cap his long career in public service with a campaign to cut the fat from the bloated monopoly utility.  Every captured-ratepayer would be behind him.

(2)    The other Burns – Commissioner Brenda Burns – confirmed she has no qualms crushing the adolescent rooftop solar industry, and would have gladly done so had she been able to rally the support of her peers.  “I’m not sure what number is right, but I know 70 cents is not enough,” Burns stated as she voted “no”.  The comment was in reference to the 70 cents per kW charge the Commission passed (amounts to $5 for the average sized system).  Solar industry officials made it clear that any charge above $5 would deal severe damage to their market as many solar leasing customers save roughly $5-10 per month from their systems.  Even Pierce, the other “no” vote, in the interests of gradualism offered an amendment with up-front solar incentives to initially offset the $50 charge he proposed.  Burns wanted a hefty charge and opposed any offsetting incentives.  If Burns had gotten her way, thousands in the solar industry would have likely found themselves out of a job and years of solar progress would have ground to a halt.  Arizona is lucky cooler heads prevailed.

(3)    A significant moment came when Erica Schroeder of the Interstate Renewable Energy Council questioned the necessity of a charge by pointing out the Commission’s lack of sufficient analysis of the grid-benefits of rooftop solar, such as reduced power plant and transmission infrastructure required from the public at-large when private dollars are invested in local solar systems.  Schroeder cited a study placing the value of rooftop solar to the grid at 12-17 cents, well above the average rate in Arizona.  Stump quickly responded, asserting that Commissioners had “reached a consensus that a cost shift does indeed exist” and that any examination of the value of rooftop solar would take place in a rate case.  With that, attorneys for the solar industry entered damage-control mode, working to limit the size of a charge to a non-fatal amount.  It is unclear why Stump and the other Commissioners thought it prudent to rush into a charge on rooftop solar while intentionally failing to look at the full picture.  They will have an opportunity to correct this mistake in APS’ 2015 rate case.

(4)    Commissioner Bitter Smith deserves accolades for how she conducted herself throughout the multi-month course of the debate.  By all accounts Bitter Smith heard and respected the concerns of all parties, personally responding to letters from constituents.  She could have made a stronger case on the day-of-the-vote to decide the issue in the appropriate venue, the 2015 rate case, but perhaps saw any effort to that end as futile given the movement towards an immediate charge from her colleagues.

(5)    In addition to transparency efforts, Commissioner Bob Burns’ closing comments provided a glimpse of possible big-things-to-come from the veteran politician.  Here they are in their entirety: 

 “I think this is possibly the tip of the iceberg.  With technology that is in the pipeline and liable to come online, this whole issue of cost shift and who pays for those who are left on the grid after people leave the grid, is the biggest issue in my mind.  My biggest concern is for those left on the grid paying for that cost.  My view is that in the not-so-distant future, the entire business model of the utilities may need to be addressed.  Because can it survive under its current design?  I’m not so sure that it can with technology coming down the pipe.  So with that again I vote aye.”

Contact the author at williambgreene9@gmail.com

APS Hitting New Lows in Anti-Solar Push

by Will Greene

This week Arizona Corporation Commissioner Bob Burns launched
an
investigation
into the “troubling” magnitude of funds spent by monopoly electric
utility Arizona Public Service Company (APS) on an anti-solar marketing blitz aimed at dismantling Arizona’s rooftop solar program.

Aps indexHow has APS chosen to respond to Burns’ concerns over ratepayer dollars
being wasted on extravegant marketing campaigns?  By releasing a
brand new marketing campaign, this time targeting Burns himself.  The website is
called "thankbobburns.com" and asks visitors to email the Commissioner in support of “net metering
reform”.

In July APS
proposed
adding $50-100 per month to the bills of customers who purchase or
lease rooftop solar.

Apparently this is the best APS’s minor army of public relations staff, lobbyists, and consultants could come up with.  Something tells me Burns won’t be
buying it.

Contact the author at williambgreene9@gmail.com