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.
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I appreciate the author’s dedication to advancing solar as a source of electricity. I agree whole-heartedly that solar should be an integral part of providing electric power to residential, commercial and industrial customers wherever the sun shines as much as it does here in Arizona.
But the author has grossly mis-characterized the situation at the Arizona Corporation Commission:
1. Unlike what Nevada did (and subsequently reversed course somewhat), the AzCC did NOT destroy net metering, it will be unchanged for thousands of current customers with rooftop solar systems. And customers who install rooftop solar in the future will still benefit from net metering, albeit to a lesser (and far more reasonable) extent than most advocates had hoped.
2. The statement that “…the Commission would elect two men…” is partly false. The VOTERS elected Mr. Dunn, not the Commission, and he was not elected to lead the Commission. It is true, however, that the Commission elected Mr. Forese as the new chair.
3. The statement “…with the discussions in Arizona now turning toward what the next step in dismantling the solar infrastructure in the state…” is so ridiculous that it is insulting to not just the Commissioners but to every resident and business in Arizona. No one is dismantling the solar infrastructure in our state – it is actually getting more extensive.
The author needs to do a much better job researching before writing his articles. His “fake news” articles may be appropriate for The Enquirer but not for an industry-focused e-journal.
Roger: I appreciate your willingness to engage on the issue. I’d like to respond, if I may:
1) While it may be true that the didn’t destroy net-metering per se (and in the interests of precision, I said “effectively destroyed”), they essentially made it unworkable for any new customers (although I do applaud APS’ recent amendment to the ruling which allows people to get the rate from the date of interconnection, not application for interconnection. That would have compounded the problem considerably.) So did they formally eliminate it? Not immediately (at least until the first rate case is over and the new “export rates” are set). But I know from installers on the ground that they are afraid the December decision will all but grind rooftop solar to a halt in the state.
2) The mistake was in language. I meant to say “selected” to the executive director’s job and Forese was elected as the new chair. Your comment does not, however, address the central issue of the article, to wit: What on earth qualifies these two men to be part of a discussion on solar energy when neither of them appears to have any credible (or even not credible) experience on the issue? And if I were an Arizona resident, I for one would resent the fact that Forese won’t have to face the consequences of his actions in two years because he’ll be off running for his next office. It does seem as if Mr. Forese has a had time saying in one job for long.
And I’ll note that in the paragraph immediately preceding the one you cite, I actually had it precisely right: Forese was elected by the other commissioners; Vogt was appointed as its new executive director.
3) Your third point is a matter of adding one word – “rooftop” – before solar, for the reasons cited above in Point No. 1. Yes, the infrastructure is expanding for utility-scale solar. But it is expected to freeze or contract on the rooftop-solar side. The point is neither ridiculous OR insulting if I’d just added that word. It’s also not my job to be liked; it’s my job to report the facts. And I watched the livestream of the entire proceeding in December – it was a decidedly pro-utility discussion, with points from the rooftop side waved away (literally) like so many gnats.
As I said, Roger, I really do appreciate your willingness to discuss my article, and when I write about Arizona again (as I will inevitably do and, frankly, already have), I’ll be sure to keep your point-of-view in mind and be more careful about my wording.
I look forward to hearing from you again soon.
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