Sheahan: solar technology ought to benefit the people — not the utilities

I’ve pretty much heard it all in my many years as an Arizona sheriff.  Con men, burglars and thieves can spin pretty good tales about why they did what they did, and why a blind eye should be turned.

Sheriff Sheahan

Sheriff Sheahan

These days I find myself in a different kind of fight, not one against hardened criminals but those of shrewd political actors in the form of Arizona power companies seeking to pickpocket Arizona residents.

For the past many months I have been helping friends in my old stomping grounds of Mohave County fend off an outrageous new ploy by utilities, in this case UNS, to raise rates via a new ploy called “demand charges.”  It’s code for Arizona being the only state in the country where we pay not only for our total power usage, but for the highest hour of usage in the month.  The second part of their scam is to wipeout energy choice and the rooftop solar industry with new fees and taxes.

They seem to be following the example of Salt River Project which already eviscerated solar choice in its territory, costing hundreds of Arizonans jobs and thousands in solar customer savings.  Hundreds of people who see through the utility’s ploy, primarily seniors, have protested in Kingman.  They don’t want to be guinea pigs for rates that no other utility in the country requires.

But the outrage and protests aren’t stopping two other utilities from moving forward with their power grab.  Arizona Public Service executives have been writing guest columns in newspapers around the state talking about how much better it is if they control all solar projects rather than allow individuals to put panels on their roof.

APS should be looking out a little more for the public good as a government granted monopoly rather than private greed. And while I don’t mean to liken the utility to a criminal, its duplicity does remind me of the criminals I once apprehended. They always got upset at law enforcement for figuring out and apprehending their schemes.

In Arizona, entrepreneurs and residents got wise to solar technology and how it can it can cut power bills. The new technology cut into the voracious appetite of utilities for ratepayer dollars.  And the utilities hate this.  They hate things and people they don’t control.

Just as I have fought crime all my life, I’m going to fight this scheme.  Fight with me.  Fight with thousands of others enraged Arizonans from Nogales to Phoenix to Lake Havasu City. Arizona utilities, led by APS, have spent millions of dollars to elect regulators on the Arizona Corporation Commission.  The payback for them is now clear:  “demand charges” and a continuing assault on solar.

But now it’s our time to demand a few things.  Protect the people, not the powerful. Protect solar so we can protect our pocketbooks.  And slam the door shut on demand charges.  Don’t make us guinea pigs under the guise of “reform.” Demand charges and solar taxes are a return on investment not for the people, but for the utility monopolies.

Editor’s note: Mr. Sheahan served in law enforcement for 43 years, 17 years as the Sheriff of Mohave County until he retired in 2014

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