By Ryan Randazzo and Mary Jo Pitzl for The Arizona Republic
Less than a week after a pro-solar group announced a ballot drive, lawmakers are working with utilities to put a counter measure before voters in November.
No language for the ballot referendum is yet available, but state Sen. Debbie Lesko said she is working on a measure that would send it to the ballot. She opposes the Arizona Solar Energy Freedom Act, which would force utilities to purchase most of the excess power from rooftop solar at retail prices and would prevent utilities from raising fees on solar customers (AZBEX, April 19, 2016).
In a system called net metering, utilities give customers full retail credits for their excess electricity. Utilities contend that they can purchase power on the open market, even from renewable sources, for less than the retail price paid to people with solar panels. Net metering helps customers lower their utility bills because the credits they get for excess power accumulate and offset power they draw from their utility.
On Friday, former Arizona Corporation Commission Chairwoman Kris Mayes announced she is leading an effort to place an initiative on the November ballot asking voters to amend the state Constitution and preserve net metering for six years, and prevent utilities from adding new fees to solar customers. Rooftop-solar leasing company SolarCity Inc. contributed $3M to the effort, the committee said Tuesday.
Lesko, a Peoria Republican, doesn’t like that initiative.
Lesko said she has met with legislative attorneys, utilities and other stakeholders to begin crafting language that could be used in a ballot referendum.
Arizona Public Service Co. officials said they support Lesko’s effort.
Mayes said Wednesday she was frustrated that APS would support a referendum countering her solar initiative.
“It is an outrageous attempt to undermine the will of the voters in Arizona,” she said. “This shows the state’s largest utility is not only desperate but out of control.”
A concurrent resolution can refer a measure to the ballot — a quicker way to get on the ballot than collecting the more than 225,000 voter signatures the citizen initiative requires. It takes the votes of only 16 senators and 31 representatives to send a measure to the ballot — and at a time when state budget negotiations are in full swing, there is the opportunity to entice a lot of lawmakers to support a late-arriving ballot measure.
Read more at The Arizona Republic