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Guest opinion

Corporation Commission took hatchet to Az solar industry

30% cut to solar rebates put private investment at risk

Two of the state's most prominent elected officials were on the road this past week, working to bring economic development opportunities to Arizona. Gov. Jan Brewer traveled to Europe and Phoenix Mayor Greg Stanton was in Washington, D.C.

It was a bipartisan mission—outreach, contact, dialogue and, hopefully, results that will bring diversification, investment dollars and jobs to the Arizona economy. Republicans, Democrats and Independents should applaud their efforts.

Sadly, closer to home, and mostly behind the scenes over the past two years, the Arizona Corporation Commission has moved in a partisan direction and has backtracked on innovation and economic development.

An emerging industry working hard to take root in our state has been undermined by a so-called conservative Republican commission.

Brewer's trip abroad included a visit to Germany this week touting, among other things, Arizona's potential for solar industry development. The governor deserves recognition for her solar-friendly disposition that has allowed an estimated 16,000 direct and indirect solar jobs to be created in our state. Only a few years ago these jobs did not exist and now they do—in a time where our state economy is struggling, we should be proud of that fact.

I'm especially glad the governor chose to visit Germany, a nation being counted on to stabilize a turbulent Europe, no doubt due in part to the over 100,000 Germans currently employed in their thriving solar PV industry.

The governor, and more importantly, my colleagues at the Arizona Corporation Commission who regulate Arizona's electric utilities, have much to learn from our German friends. Despite having sunlight comparable to Alaska, Germany was able to power half of their nation with solar for the first time only a few days prior to the governor's visit. This is an extraordinary feat, and exposes the dormant solar potential in our state, one-third of which is occupied by the Sonoran Desert.

Unfortunately, despite the governor's vision and support, the Republican majority at the Arizona Corporation Commission recently voted to slash by 30 percent the total amount of rebate money available for residences that want to put up solar. This move changed expectations, put at risk private investment, and negatively impacted many businesses in the state. It means many less Arizonans will be able to partake in the new solar economy. An emerging industry working hard to take root in our state has been undermined by a so-called conservative Republican commission.

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Instead of nurturing what we have, this year the ACC took a hatchet to it.

It takes a bipartisan effort to do what's best for Arizona. I'm glad the governor seems to understand that seizing solar jobs is what Arizonan's want and expect from our elected officials.

It's ironic that two of our state's top leaders traveled across the nation and the world to do what the Arizona Corporation Commission could do from its perch on West Jefferson Avenue. Our economic future can be helped by visits to new places, but only if my fellow commissioners stop putting it in peril by their actions at home.

Paul Newman is a Democrat currently serving on the Arizona Corporation Commission

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2 comments on this story

2
Jun 12, 2012, 11:23 pm
-0 +4

I disagree with philop. If solar was subsidized to the same degree that either fossil fuel or nuclear generated electricity is, we would all already have rooftop solar on our homes.

1
1 comments
Jun 7, 2012, 6:00 pm
-4 +0

I disagree with Commissioner Newman.  I applaud the good work done by the ACC to cut spending on rebates.  If an item is worthwhile, people will buy it, rebate or not.

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Tim W. Glass/TucsonSentinel.com

Workers from SolarH20 install solar panels on the Unitarian Universalist Church of Tucson in May.