Goldwater: We need a sunrise — not sunset — for energy choices in Ariz. - Ahwatukee Foothills News: Opinion

Goldwater: We need a sunrise — not sunset — for energy choices in Ariz.

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Posted: Wednesday, May 1, 2013 1:56 pm | Updated: 6:47 am, Mon Sep 8, 2014.

 

Recently I spoke out in support of a critical effort under way in Arizona: keeping the state’s rooftop solar industry alive. Like school choice and health care choice, solar choice should be a core part of the Arizona agenda, and my party’s message.

Unfortunately, utility monopolies in Arizona are trying to limit solar energy choice because more energy independence for Arizonans means smaller utility profits. The more people that go solar, the less power they need to buy from utilities.

Fearing an inevitable change to their monopoly status, utilities are trying to kill net metering, a successful policy in 43 states that gives property owners fair credit for the solar they put on the grid. It’s like the rollover minutes on your cell phone bill. It’s also one of the best policy tools helping homes, businesses, and schools invest private capital to install solar on their properties. If APS succeeds, the independent solar industry in Arizona will be crushed. That’s not a bluff. It’s the consequence. The monopoly will win if net metering is killed. Competition will lose.

As Arizonans and Americans who support independence, we should be proud that our state’s solar industry has achieved aggressive cost reductions over the last decade. This has allowed incentives to drop significantly — they’re even ending later this year — and resulted in 16,000 jobs for Arizonans, plus savings for taxpayers. Monopoly utilities aren’t known for reducing costs or driving business innovation like the Arizona solar industry is.

We cannot let the advantages and benefits of solar be pushed aside by monopolies wanting to limit energy choice and competition. That is why I support T.U.S.K — Tell Utilities Solar won’t be Killed. It’s an organization created to ensure solar remains viable in Arizona.

Republicans and all Arizonans should have the freedom to make the best choices for their properties and their families, and if that means saving money with solar, we should let that be the case.

To offer a comparison, rooftop solar is really no different than a charter school that provides a competitive alternative to the monopoly. It would be Republican heresy to eliminate such an option.

What’s more, eliminating net metering would amount to a tax hike on hundreds of Arizona schools, businesses and homeowners that are saving millions of dollars by installing solar to decrease their electric bills. Local taxpayers would be left to pick up the tab.

The last thing we need is more tax hikes. The monopolies say it’s about the ratepayer and that somehow more solar is more expensive for non-solar users. This is nonsense. More competition and more choices drive prices down, not up.

We have one of the sunniest states in the country and we have an opportunity to maximize that while growing the economy, encouraging entrepreneurship, and allowing energy independence through rooftop solar. Let’s not stifle one of the country’s fastest-growing industries today just because utilities fear more competition tomorrow.

To some extent I can’t believe we are even having this debate. It would be like the typewriter lobby holding back computers. Solar technology has progressed and we must not stifle it to protect entrenched interests.

• Barry Goldwater Jr. is a former U.S. Congressman and the chairman of T.U.S.K. (Tell Utilities Solar won’t be Killed). Learn more about T.U.S.K. at dontkillsolar.com.

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