As the old saying goes: "Eternal vigilance is the price of liberty". Last week, an Arizona utility regulator was found to have literally repeated anti-rooftop solar talking points provided by utility industry lobbyists during a May phone call with a Wall Street analyst. It's the kind of thing many of us suspect happens all to frequently, and underscores the need for solar users to get organized.
Read all the details at Utility Dive. Published email correspondence between the regulator, Justin Olson, and the Arizona utility APS show that Mr. Olson asked APS for talking points in advance of his call with Wall Street analyst Suisse Credit, and that Mr. Olson used many of those talking points during he call.
This includes repeating the utility industry cannard that rooftop solar is more expensive that utility-scale energy. Read why that's bunk.
The Arizona brouhaha feels familiar to a similar situation here in California a few years back that caused a Public Utilities Commissioner to resign.
While it's unseemly that a powerful regulator would literally seek out and then repeat the talking points of the industry it regulates, it also isn't terribly surprising if the regulator agrees with the position of the industry.
What's more disturbing is the cozy relationship between utilities and regulators that leads to such actions to begin with. But let's not just blame the monopoly utilities for simply acting in their own interest. We consumers are too often stay on the sidelines rather than exercising our rights. Yann Brandt from Solar Wakeup puts it well in today's newsletter:
"Here is the counterpoint to the ‘regulatory capture’ above. You lose 100% of the battles you stay out of and regulators will care 0% of all the arguments you never make to them. Moreover, regulators will never know your issue if you don’t spend telling them the talking points. They will surely ignore you and often won’t respond, but you need to keep them reading your message."
I'm glad this got exposed, but mainly because I hope it catalyzes more solar users to get active, join Solar Rights Alliance and respond when we put out a call to action. It's certainly annoying and inconvenient that we have to be this vigilant with our own government. But the alternative sounds a lot worse to me.