You’d think expanding solar energy in Arizona, the state with the country’s highest level of solar insolation, would be a breeze.
But last year, the state’s Department of Revenue ruled that existing statutes suggest homeowners who install solar panels on their roofs are subject to a $US140 surcharge on their property taxes.
Last month, the department further clarified that only homeowners who lease panels would face the tax — little comfort to those taking part in the fastest-growing segment of residential solar installations.
What prompted that first ruling remains unclear to this day. Whatever its origins, it is still in place.
Today, TUSK, a pro-renewables conservative group whose members include SolarCity and SunRun, launched its latest salvo in a campaign to reverse the department’s interpretation, releasing an ad that calls on Arizona Gov. Jan Brewer to override the department’s ruling. The coalition also announced last week that there will be a rally at the state capitol to protest the interpretation.
“It’s a terrible tax for Arizona and a political gift for the Democrats,” Barry Goldwater Jr., the head of TUSK, says in the ad. A recent TUSK-sponsored poll found 77% of Arizonans would be less likely to vote for an election candidate if they proposed ending support for solar.
The utility industry’s opposition to solar has been well documented, but it seems to have grown most intense in Arizona, where the solar industry has accused the chairman of the state’s electric utility, Don Brandt, of personally lobbying in favour of a bill that would codify the department’s interpretation into law. The group that owns the utility spent more than $US3 million last year on a campaign to peel back solar subsidies. The utility argues non-solar customers are hurt by the incentives.
We just wrote about how Barclays believes it’s already too late for solar companies to achieve anything more than short-term speedbumps to solar adoption.
“While they may slow the penetration of solar, any relief they offer utilities is likely to be short lived,” lead author YC Koh wrote in the firm’s note. “In Arizona, the fee increases the cost of a rooftop solar installation about 5%. With the costs of solar installations falling about 10% per year, we expect the pace of installations to recover before the end of 2014.”
Apparently, utilities are trying anyway.
Here’s the ad: