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 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

Public Hearing to be Set on Net Metering – Arizona’s Rooftop Solar Industry Hangs in the Balance

by Will Greene

Much of what happens at the Arizona Corporation Commission
occurs behind closed doors and that is why transparency won a rare victory on
Friday when Commissioner Susan Bitter Smith requested
a broader public hearing
on the crucial matter of net metering.  The date for the hearing is still to be determined.

Net metering grants consumers
the ability to feed excess electricity generated from rooftop solar
systems to the grid – and to be fairly compensated for that electricity.  Without this agreement, a residential
and commercial solar industry would not exist in Arizona, and the only solar on
the grid would be utility-owned centralized generation.

Arizona Public Service, the state’s largest electric
utility, is questioning the value of the electricity consumers are contributing
to the grid, arguing it needs to be substantially lower, as indicated in a
recent much-maligned
My Turn
by APS CEO Don Brandt. 

Previous studies examining the value of distributed solar
energy determined it to be an asset for
the grid.  A 2009 R.W. Beck
valuation study
commissioned by APS reported that savings from distributed solar due to reduced
fuel, purchased power, line losses, and operation-maintanance costs alone equate to 8-11 cents/kWh.  To put that in context, the average
rate of electricity in Arizona runs around 10 cents/kWh.  The cost of fuel such as coal and
natural gas is unstable and in the long term only increasing.  Purchasing power on the open market introduces
substantial risk to ratepayers due to fluctuating prices.  Transmission line losses can approach
10% when electricity must be transported from distant power plants.  Conventional fossil power plants require substantial operation and maintanence costs that can balloon as federal clean air action takes place through the EPA.  These vulnerabilities are eliminated by
distributed solar energy, providing the value R.W. Beck calculated.

Screen shot 2013-05-13 at 10.23.33 AM

Distributed Solar Savings Breakdown from R.W. Beck Study

One can argue, which no doubt APS is at this moment, that
R.W. Beck did not examine fully the negative effects of distributed solar
energy, such as grid infrastructure cost shifts from solar owners to non-solar
owners.

A similar examination was undertaken by Texas utility Austin Energy, which placed the value of solar
electricity to their system at 12.8 cents/kWh.  Studies like R.W. Beck and the valuation from Austin Energy have
left many wondering whether APS is less worried about cost shifts to customers
resulting from net metering, and more worried about losing their grip on the
monopoly electric system they currently benefit from.

The rehtorical battle over the value of solar in Arizona is playing out well beyond the confines of the ACC.  In February, Sunrun CEO Ed Fenster called APS "probably the most anti-solar utility in the country."  Sunrun is a leading provider of residential solar leases, a business model that counts on the ability of consumers to put solar on their roof through net metering programs.  At this month's Solar Summit in Phoenix, Fenster took advantage of an opportunity to publically drill APS Renewable Energy program manager Greg Bernosky.  The must-watch video is below.


 

I will keep readers updated as the net metering discussions move forward, and opportunities for public input arise.

Ammunition for Solar Advocates

by Will Greene

A few weeks ago I asked clean energy advocates to make
external costs a mantra
.  The concept
of external costs is simple – when utilities and power plant owners dump
pollution into our air and atmosphere for free, they “externalize” costs to the
hardworking taxpayer- who pick up the tab in the form of hospital bills, asthma
medication, lost work days, premature death, climate chaos ect.  The process allows utilities and fossil
fuel industry players to offer artificially low prices for their electricity and
to (literally) make a killing from coal and natural gas.  This fundamental economic dynamic means
coal is the most subsidized form of electricity known to mankind.

While the external cost argument is a panacea for clean
energy advocates, it is actually mostly unnecessary in Arizona thanks to our
abundant sunshine.  We now know,
thanks to a
comprehensive report by Arizona Public Service (APS),
that electricity from
solar pv is substantially cheaper than electricity from coal and nuclear, while
cost-competitive with electricity from natural gas – even without including
external costs in the discussion.

 

Screen shot 2013-03-12 at 9.29.56 AM

Source: APS 2012 Integrated Resource Plan

 

In case you didn’t catch that, in 2012, Arizona’s largest
utility told us that solar energy is cheaper than coal and nuclear, while competitive
with natural gas.

Take a moment to let that settle. 

The report did include the assumption of a gradual federal
carbon price coming into effect sometime in the latter half of this
decade.  Given recent tough-talk on
climate from the White House, this is a fair assumption.  However the thrust of the report
remains – solar has reached cost-parity, even cost advantage. 

This of course raises the question, “If solar is so
economical, why are Arizona’s utilities aggressively acquiring coal-fired
facilities such as APS
with Four Corners
and SRP
with Navajo Generating Station
?”  Antiquated power plants such as
Four Corners and NGS are already fully paid off by ratepayers, and therefore
generate “cheap” electricity (“cheap” only if you don’t account for external
costs).  The APS resource plan compares the
cost of new power plants “forecasted
in 2015 dollars, including allowances for funds used during construction.”  Solar has a hard time competing with existing
facilities, built in the 70’s, and paid off by ratepayers.  But in a cost comparison of new
generation, solar wins in Arizona. 

Keep this fact in your rhetorical toolkit for use in your next
encounter with a foot-dragging, nuclear-touting, know-it-all, postulating that
solar is great, but we just can’t afford it yet.  Baloney.  Bring
on the sun.

Solar Exec Calls AZ Utility “probably the most aggressive anti-solar utility in the country”

by Will Greene

Arizona’s electric utilities have done a terrific job applying a shiny green layer of paint over their fossil-based business
model.  Relentless advertising and
sponsorships (funded entirely by captive ratepayers) feature energy efficiency
and solar programs – programs that would not exist absent requirements from the
Arizona Corporation Commission.

That is why many ratepayers might be surprised by the
recent comments
of Ed Fenster, the CEO of SunRun, an industry-leading
provider of solar lease programs that have allowed more Americans than ever to
participate in the new-energy economy. 

"Utilities are very aggressive about it because they've
never faced competition and they have always earned riskless profit," said
Fenster. "Arizona Public Service (APS), probably the most aggressive
anti-solar utility in the country, sent a notice to customers that said because
people are recycling their refrigerators and installing CFLs we need to raise
your rates."

Fenster is referring to a notice recently sent to customers by APS, Arizona's largest electric utility.  The notice warned of a slight rate increase, amounting to under 40
cents/month, to account for the fact that utilities still provide fixed-cost
infrastructure support such as electric lines that must be paid for, even as
they begin to hemorrhage customers to energy efficiency and solar energy.

Despite a facade of support, renewable energy, specifically
distributed solar energy owned by average citizens, business owners, or leasing
companies, is the most significant long term threat to the existing business
model of Arizona’s utilities, who make their profit by owning centralized power
plants and transmission lines.  Utilities
lose money every time a new Arizonan lowers their electric bill by installing a solar system on their roof.  The added generation from these
installations, combined with Arizona’s aggressive energy efficiency standard, also
mean utilities will not be constructing new power plants, causing them to miss
out on the reliable and lucrative profit margins that come from centralized
projects.

Undoubtedly, American utility executives are looking across the Atlantic in fear.  European utilities are facing the erosion
of their credit value from Moody’s
as more citizens participate in aggressive
renewable energy programs that exist throughout the continent.  The stranglehold on electical generation that European utilities have enjoyed for a century is lessening.  America is headed down the same path, at least unless opponents of renewable energy win the policy debate.

As more solar energy is installed thanks to dramatic cost
reductions and state Renewable Energy Standards that exist across the country,
the stage is being set for a showdown between utility executives clinging to their
outdated monopolized central-control model, and those who would welcome at least some democratization of America’s
energy system.