In Arizona, Solar Politicking Intensifies


TUSK airs a new TV ad calling a candidate for the Arizona Corporation Commission a utility lapdog. Is this kind of advertising another sign that solar is becoming mainstream? Or is it going too far?


Arizona solar is facing hard times. A state with so much sunny potential has been encountering roadblocks to widespread solar adoption in the form of unfavorable solar policies. And ironically, solar relies much more on policy than on sunshine.

Two policies in Arizona have the potential to put a serious damper on the solar industry there, according to GTM Research. Between the fee imposed last year on residential solar customers and a recent plan by the Arizona Department of Revenue to impose a new property tax on leased rooftop solar systems, the cost of residential solar could become prohibitively high in Arizona.

The recent tax decision has become a contentious issue. It’s figuring prominently in an upcoming race for two open seats on the Arizona Corporation Commission (ACC), with Republican candidates speaking out against the tax.

An exception is Doug Little. According to TUSK (Tell Utilities Solar won’t be Killed), Little was one of a very few supporting the goal of Arizona Public Service (APS) to “tax Arizona’s rooftop solar energy choice out of existence” last November before the ACC. And he supports the new property tax, which TUSK says is favored by only 5% of Republican primary voters.  

TUSK is concerned about Little’s candidacy for a seat on the ACC. Pointing to the “hundreds of thousands of dollars from the APS utility he would be charged with regulating,” including dark money that APS has been funneling into his and other campaigns, TUSK asks how he can be expected not to jump at the bidding of the utility.  

Well, “asks” is putting it mildly. TUSK has come out with a TV spot that portrays Little as a lapdog taking commands from APS. Chairman Barry Goldwater, Jr. says his organization is injecting humor into the situation. “While a very serious matter, sometimes a little humor can be just what is needed to convey a very important message that should concern every Arizona Republican,” said Goldwater in a statement.  

Not everyone will find this particular ad funny. It may not represent the best of solar or help to give solar a good name. You might even say it engages in the dirty politics that TUSK is accusing APS of adopting.

The ad is likely to get some attention, though. It can even be seen as another sign that solar is becoming mainstream. What could be more mainstream than dirty politics?

One thing is certain: Jokes aside, in Arizona, the politics of solar has become a serious business.