Posted by AzBlueMeanie:
The Arizona Republic reported this week, APS, solar companies clash over credits to customers:
APS recently acknowledged to The Arizona Republic that it provided money to a Washington, D.C.-based conservative organization called 60 Plus, which focuses on seniors’ issues such as taxes, Social Security and Medicare.
It also gave money to another non-profit called Prosper, which was launched this year by Republican Kirk Adams, a former Arizona House speaker.
The non-profits have supported APS’ position in websites, online videos and television advertisements.
John Hatfield, APS vice president of communications, said the utility is contributing money to the non-profits, and potentially other groups, through political consultant Sean Noble and his firm, DC London.
“We needed to respond to these ridiculous assertions that we do not support solar,” Hatfield said, adding that APS does not agree with all political positions at 60 Plus and Prosper.
Early this year, APS initiated a series of meetings with solar companies and other interested parties to address net metering.
In March, California rooftop-installation companies SolarCity Corp. and Sunrun Inc., with other partners, formed TUSK, or “Tell Utilities Solar won’t be Killed.”
The group opposed changes to net metering even before APS formally submitted its proposed changes to the Corporation Commission, which approves rates and related policies for most of the state’s utilities.
Shortly after TUSK launched, 60 Plus began criticizing SolarCity and Sunrun, comparing them with Solyndra, the California solar company that took more than $500 million in federal assistance and then filed for bankruptcy.
Soon after, Prosper joined the debate on the side of APS. Prosper has been running television commercials calling for changes to net metering.
Money sent to non-profits is difficult to track in a timely fashion, because the Internal Revenue Service only requires non-profits to file annual reports. That can make the identity of their financial supporters unknown for long periods.
This is the first time APS has acknowledged it is contributing to the groups.
In July, APS officials suggested it was coincidental that they were paying Noble and that 60 Plus and Prosper were siding with the utility on net metering.
Noble did not return calls from The Republic.
Adams said he formed Prosper to promote free-market principles. He would not acknowledge the group is getting money from APS, even though company officials confirmed contributing to the group.
Adams said Prosper has several donors, and that he did not form the group to work exclusively for APS. “That is categorically false in every respect,” he said. “Our organization had its genesis last fall.”
He said Prosper has also been campaigning to prevent the expansion of Medicaid. He said Prosper has had limited contact with APS regarding net metering and that he chose to get involved in the issue independent of any donations.
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APS officials declined to say how much they are spending on 60 Plus and Prosper, but costs of the television advertisements tied to the net-metering issue run into hundreds of thousands of dollars.
The Huffington Post adds some details the Republic left out, Arizona Solar Policy Fight Heats Up As Utility Admits To Funding Nonprofits' Campaign Ads:
Arizona's largest utility admitted this week that it had paid a national conservative group to run anti-solar ads, after denying earlier in the year that it was funding the campaign.
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The debate over the policy has split along some interesting political lines, with the son of Republican icon Barry Goldwater defending net metering against attacks from a national conservative organization. The 60 Plus Association, which presents itself as a more conservative alternative to the AARP, has been running ads in the state, along with a website, bashing the solar net-metering policy as "corporate welfare."
In July, when this reporter asked APS spokesman Jim McDonald point-blank whether APS was funding the 60 Plus ads, he denied it, saying, "No, we are not." [That was false -- see above.]
"I know what I told you earlier," McDonald said. "That was my understanding at the time." He said he doesn't know how much APS money went toward those campaigns and dismissed the issue as "a phony controversy fueled by opponents who are eager to distract attention from the real substance from the issue."
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APS has maintained that it is not anti-solar, it just wants to change the net metering policy. "We've been painted as anti-solar," McDonald said. "That's just absolutely untrue."
60 Plus is backed by the Koch brothers, and the Arizona Republic confirmed that the work against net metering in Arizona is being coordinated by conservative operative Sean Noble, who has been described as "the wizard behind the screen" in the Kochs' donor network.
Prosper, the other named group that received money for its ads, is led by former Arizona Speaker of the House Kirk Adams (R) and has campaigned against net metering and against the expansion of Medicaid.
On Thursday, two other nonprofits operated by Noble and Adams were fined $1 million for failing to appropriately disclose political spending in California's elections last year.
The revelations about APS' funding of the anti-solar campaign have sparked further debate. Solar proponents, including the Alliance for Solar Choice and the Arizona Solar Energy Industries Association, are now calling on the state attorney general and utility regulators at the Arizona Corporation Commission to look into whether APS illegally used rate-payer funds as part of those efforts.
[John Hatfield [told The Arizona Republic] that APS is not using ratepayer funds to finance its political campaign. Instead, he said the utility is using profits that otherwise would go to stockholders. APS’ parent company, Pinnacle West Capital Corp., is publicly traded.]
McDonald told HuffPost that ratepayer money was not used to pay for the campaigns, but that the funds came from shareholders in APS' parent company, Pinnacle West Capital Corp., which is publicly traded.
The net metering fight has even boiled over into Arizona's electoral politics.
Last week Wil Cardon, a Republican candidate in the 2014 primary race for secretary of state, accused one of his opponents, Justin Pierce -- son of ACC commissioner Gary Pierce -- of soliciting campaign support in exchange for his father's influence on utility regulation. Cardon's campaign identified two individuals on the host committee for a Justin Pierce fundraiser as employees of firms that have done work for APS at one time. But both of those lobbyists told The Huffington Post that they do not currently and have never lobbied on behalf of APS.
In response to the criticism, Pierce announced that his campaign will be publicly funded.
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The Cardon campaign has also implied in public statements that a company like APS or a political operative like Noble or Adams could make outside expenditures in support of Pierce's campaign. Heywood told HuffPost that it would be illegal for the campaign to "coordinate on anything like that."
"He's not doing that and won't do it," said Heywood.
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[T]he revelations about the previously undisclosed funding to 60 Plus and Prosper aren't helping [APS'] reputation. And renewables proponents are growing increasingly worried about where the senior Pierce might come down on the net metering question. They pointed to several recent letters from Commissioner Gary Pierce that they think indicate he might support APS' efforts to change the net metering policy.
In July, Pierce requested a study from commission staff to examine whether the net metering policy should be changed. In an Oct. 17 letter, Pierce requested additional information from all parties after the staff report recommended against APS' proposal and in favor of not changing the net metering policy at this time.
Pierce has denied suggestions that he's taken any position on net metering at this point. "I am still considering all of the arguments, which is why I am actively seeking more input," Pierce said in a written response to questions from HuffPost. "My goal is to get this issue right for all ratepayers, and to have a sound policy that will work for years to come, not only for APS, but for the solar industry as well."
The ACC is expected to begin hearings on proposals to revise the net metering policy in November.