Solar power advocates are ‘the enemy,' says utility in America's sunniest state

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For years, utilities in Arizona — which gets even more sunshine than the actual “Sunshine State” — have been working to stymie the ability of rooftop solar power companies to increase sales.


In case there was any lingering doubt how they really feel about this industry, we now have some clarity.

The Arizona Republic’s Ryan Randazzo reports that the Salt River Project, the state’s second-largest utility, spent $1.7 million for three-months’ worth of advertising for a change in electricity rates that would penalize solar power users. The increase was approved in February.


They also used some pretty colorful language to describe opponents of the initiative.

“Financial records and e-mails obtained from the utility show the company geared up last year for an intense debate with solar advocates, whom one SRP executive referred to as ‘the enemy’ in an e-mail to public-relations consultants,” he writes.

Salt River has claimed the the employee was just joking.

Even if that’s true, it exemplifies the intense debate within the state over expanding solar power, and who should be doing so.


The Arizona Republic has previously found the state’s utilities spent millions in dark money to support candidates for positions on the state committee that sets electricity rates.

Meanwhile, SolarCity, the largest residential rooftop solar installation company in the U.S. is currently suing Salt River for antitrust violations.


It remains unclear who is winning. Randazzo says that in 2014 the number of customers applying for solar within the coverage area of the state’s largest utility fell, but the number who installed solar was up.

But it does show the difficulties the U.S. is facing in ramping up renewable energy: If even the sunniest state in the country can’t figure it out, everyone is is likely to struggle too.


Rob covers business, economics and the environment for Fusion. He previously worked at Business Insider. He grew up in Chicago.

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