In my home state of Arizona, we receive between our five major cities an average of 286.6 sunny days a year (Current Results, 2017). This is an amazing outlet for solar energy and Arizona is one of the most effective states in the country for this sustainable energy innovation to reach its full potential. Many homes commit to rooftop solar to mitigate the environmental damaged caused by fossil fuel-powered electricity and ultimately reduce their overall cost of utilities. However, the amount of solar energy retrievable by easily, one of the sunniest states in America is being wasted on selfish corporate gain. The Arizona Corporate Commission oversees energy and utility regulation/policy throughout the state and three of those five member’s campaign were heavily funded by APS (Arizona Public Service Electric Company), the state’s dominant electricity provider (Yaquinto, 2016). APS belongs to the Pinnacle West Capital Corporation which supplies energy to around 1.2 million people (Energy and Policy Institute, 2017).
The influence of APS on energy consumption contracted through the Arizona Corporate Commission draws towards the internal benefit of the company and clouds the process of democracy drowning the voices of the people. The ACC, with the consolidation of their close friend, APS, aimed to implement a policy change that does not have the best interest of independent citizens or the environment in mind. This very crucial issue has arisen from the situation threatens the ability of the individual to use a more sustainable energy source.
Those who possess rooftop solar receive a credited APS account determined by each kilowatt per hour they contribute to the grid. Each kilowatt was redeemed at the full retail price of a kilowatt of non-solar, APS power, making their overall energy bill less than otherwise. This method is termed “net metering” and is in the best interest of all energy consumers. for any leftover kilowatts help reduce the overall price of energy for everyone on the grid including those who do not use solar.
Originally each Kilowatt per hour generated by solar was reimbursed at the full retail price of 11-12 cents. The Arizona Corporate Commission wanted to reduce the credit received per kilowatt drastically to the wholesale price of 3-4 cents (Ola 2016) and reduce they did with a 4:1 vote (Eck, 2017). This decrease is mostly supported by the idea that the retail cost paid by regular consumers is used to maintain the grid, and since solar usage does nothing monetarily to maintain the grid infrastructure, this price should be reduced to the wholesale price. As understandable as it is, I would like to point out that the CEO of APS made $7,770,398 in the 2015 fiscal year and the paychecks of the other four company members directly beneath him totaled at $8,962,094; therefore, I doubt that accurately paying solar users for their clean energy contribution would set the corporation back, assuming their priorities are in good karma (Salary.com, 2017). To implement this decrease would cause an imbalance in the energy output of solar and the compensation received on individual’s behalf. Consumers of solar power still rely on the public grid to combat the lulls in solar energy experienced at night and are losing money.
I had the opportunity to experience a part of the democratic process designed to give voice to the people and found it mute. I attended a council meeting at the state commission headquarters where an open forum was held. Hundreds of concerned citizens where present; so much so that the meeting court room and the detached court-watching room were full to the brim, and a trail of solar-valuers led out of the building entrance. The council proceeded slowly with a lack of urgency to allow the public to make its opinion heard. The extent of my voice was a written letter of malcontent, and while there was a significant lineup, the day was still young when the court broke for lunch and declared that not everyone would get to speak.
The issue is very touchy: it is no legal crime to “democratically” make the return reduction equal to the wholesale price, but the implications that this corporate-influenced proposal has on the individual’s independence and environmental sustainability is unproductive. The main purpose is to create a “fair” system, however, everyone views “fair” through their own set of eyes, which leads this issue to be a matter of personal moral beliefs of which the state government is suppressing – deeming to know which “one” way is the fairest. The implementation is in favor of the big energy companies that are slowly losing business to solar companies. Regard for environmental sustainability and individual financial sustainably is absent. In this case, we find ourselves at a point in environmental justice that has a heavy social justice correlation. These instances are much more prominent than one might think, and are often not executed in such a manner that both injustices are present and intertwining. Lack of justice in one issue while the other is resolved (because of their interconnectedness) tends not to resolve the issues of an unjust democracy.
This is just one small instance in a series of many that have plagued the rise of justice for all in this fair land we call home.
Current results. 2017. Weather and science facts. Days of Sunshine Per Year in Arizona. https://www.currentresults.com/Weather/Arizona/annual-days-of-sunshine.php
Yaquinto G. 2016. Word on the Street. This election cycle Arizona voters continued what has become a trend in electing Republican candidates to the ACC. ACC Open Meter Monitoring. 2016.
Arizona Public service. 2017. Energy and Policy Institute.
Ola D. 2016. Arizona to Finally Decide Value of Solar. PV Tech. Solar Media Limited. 2017.
Salary.com. 2017. Pinnacle West Capital Corp. http://www1.salary.com/PINNACLE-WEST-CAPITAL-CORP-Executive-Salaries.html
Eck. Randall. 2017. Arizona Corporate Commission Cuts Net Metering for Solar Users. The daily Wildcat. Son Works. Accessed 29 May 2017. http://www.wildcat.arizona.edu/article/2017/01/arizona-corporation-commission-cuts-net-metering-for-solar-users.