Solar neophytes join ACC as its new leaders

Tom Forese, the new chairman of the Arizona Corporation Commission, will have two years to ruin the solar industry before seeking the next office in his ever upwardly mobile political career.

So what does the Arizona Corporation Commission (ACC) do for an encore after effectively destroying net-metering in December?

Add two men whose long  history of public service include minimal – if any – experience dealing with solar – or any energy-related issue, for that matter.

On Monday, the commission elected commissioner Thomas Forese as its new chairman and appointed Ted Vogt as its new executive director. While both men have served in the Arizona statehouse, neither has shown any particular interest in energy issues, beyond expanding and protecting business interests.

After a bruising three-year “Value of Solar” docket debate ended with the Commission effectively ending the state’s solar net-metering program – leading to fears the state’s blossoming rooftop-solar industry will grind to a screeching halt – it seems odd that the Commission would elect two men to lead them with so little experience in the energy field.

But with the discussions in Arizona now turning toward what the next step in dismantling the solar infrastructure in the state, the direction of the discussions are now in Vogt’s and Forese’s inexperienced hands.

The resumes of both Forese and Vogt indicate they won’t be focused on protecting the rights of solar customers as much as they will be focused on protecting and expanding profits for businesses, including the state’s utilities.

Chairman Forese is a relative newcomer to the commission, having been elected in 2014 to a four-year term. But, in keeping with his history as a serial Republican state legislator, he said earlier this year he would leave the commission after one term to run for the soon-to-be vacated state treasurer’s office.

During his two two-year terms in the statehouse (representing two different districts), Forese’s main interest appears to have been preparing for the next step in his upward spiraling political career. As Chairman of the House Commerce Committee, he focused on job creation. On the Commission, Forese has at least facilitated a series of rooftop-solar workshops, the only part of his resume containing energy experience.

Vogt’s resume is longer, but his energy experience is even thinner than Forese’s. After a five-year career as an investment banker, Vogt entered the Air Force as an intelligence officer and served in Iraq and Afghanistan. He then joined then-Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld’s staff as a daily intelligence briefer.

Vogt served three years as an Arizona representative and led the state’s Department of Veterans’ Services before Monday’s appointment. His most notable legislative achievements focused on veterans’ issues and not on energy. He is also a member of the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC), a conservative policy shop whose anti-solar stances are legendary.