In 2013, a national battle for energy choice commenced as utilities attacked solar net metering in California, Arizona, Louisiana, and Idaho. Net metering allows rooftop solar customers to use clean solar energy that they generate themselves, and then receive full retail credit for any excess electricity sent back to the grid. Utilities turn around and sell this energy to neighboring homes and businesses.
The solar industry – backed by overwhelming public support – claimed victory in all of the 2013 battles by preserving net metering. The Arizona battle was particularly heated, as Arizona Public Service (APS) funded a multimillion-dollar anti-solar campaign rooted in dirty and ineffective tactics. APS lied about funding phony grassroots organizations and ads attacking their own customers. Meanwhile, utility trade association Edison Electric Institute (EEI) aired its own TV and radio ads attacking rooftop solar customers. Despite spending millions and damaging their own brands, APS and EEI failed. What they did accomplish was dragging down APS’s net approval with its own customers by 13 points.
Arizona and last year’s 4-0 scoreboard for solar wins vs. utility losses demonstrate that the public – voters and ratepayers whose energy choice is under attack – wants rooftop solar. In 2014, public support for solar remains undeniable: the rooftop solar industry just defeated two additional attacks in Utah and the state of Washington.
The Utah and Washington battles mark the entrance of a new rooftop solar attacker: The American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC). ALEC joined the fray last year with a template for model anti-net metering policies. Washington and Utah are the first decisions stemming from this template, and both are clear ALEC defeats.