Elon Musk, Arizona and The Great Solar Debate

“Being able to have energy freedom is something I have always supported.  We should be able to control our own destiny,” says Meghaen Dell’Artino, a Phoenix based lobbyist for SolarCity.

Dell’Artino was selected by Elon Musk’s company to fight a big battle in Arizona  — a battle that is on hold.  For now.

SolarCity, the state’s largest solar installer and APS, the state’s largest utility agreed to withdraw conflicting ballot plans.  At issue: How Arizona can regulate rates charged to customers who generate their own power.  

APS wanted to propose several initiatives to Arizona voters mandating separate rates for rooftop solar users and also regulating solar leasing companies as utilities.  On the other side was a SolarCity-backed citizens’ initiative mandating that utilities pay homeowners with rooftop solar panels the full retail price for power they send back to the grid.

“I think Governor Ducey stepping out in front of that as a Republican Governor shows that he likes innovation, he likes what solar provides and is looking for a solution,” Dell’Artino says.  

Arizona is one of several states in the nation trying to navigate the next step in the role solar plays going into the future, and, moreover, how much consumers are charged.

Hal Pittman, an APS spokesman, said in a statement to the Associated Press, “We’re open to engaging in constructive dialogue with SolarCity that benefits all Arizonans.  Our goal, as we’ve stated, has always been to ensure fair energy policy for the state at affordable pricing for all of our customers, and sustainable solar for the long term.”

“The utility likes to say this is about solar customers paying their fair share.  Solar actually helps the grid, it helps interconnection,” according to Dell’Artino.  

And she also says they have polling numbers over the last 5 years showing solar is popular in this state.

When asked if this an issue that pits conservatives against liberals, Dell’Artino laughs.  

“I am a conservative Republican, I own a conservative lobbying firm.  I don’t think conservatives hate solar,” Dell’Artino says.  “Being able to have energy freedom is something I have always supported.  We should be able to control our own destiny.”