Ron Barber

Barry Goldwater Jr.

Tucson Electric Power wants to increase its income at the expense of customers who want to use solar energy. The utility is trying to slap $25 to $30 a month in charges on new solar customers. This proposal shows a blatant disregard for Tucsonans who want clean energy choice and more control over their electric bills.

TEP’s proposal is in addition to eliminating a key solar policy – net metering – and reducing the credit solar customers get for power they export to the grid, both policy changes that will negatively impact the solar industry in Arizona. The Corporation Commission approved these changes in a wide-ranging decision just months ago. Now, TEP is asking the Corporation Commission to go even further – over $300 a year further, to be exact.

Now, these days you don’t see much in the way of agreement across the political aisle. We are both former members of Congress with different policy opinions, but we share a passion for solar energy. For conservatives, it’s about energy choice and independence. For progressives, it’s about doing what’s right for the environment and lower energy costs for consumers. For all Arizonans, it’s about options and savings. Tucson Electric Power’s rate proposal goes against all of these principles.

Earlier this year, Arizona Public Service and the solar industry reached a truce that would preserve energy choice and is poised to end a protracted solar war that went on for more than three years. It seems TEP must not have understood this agreement, or the utility wouldn’t be asking the Corporation Commission to not just approve a hit to solar, but to reduce consumer solar investments and roll back clean energy job growth.

The hard work has already been done. Rather than start a new solar war, TEP would be wise to follow a reasonable plan that has already been laid out by months of complex negotiations by many stakeholders.

Tucson is no less deserving of the benefits of rooftop solar than Phoenix; but TEP disagrees. By the looks of it, TEP is hoping Tucson residents won’t notice its attempts to slap a substantial tax on the sun. But they are dead wrong if they think that a fighting spirit is lacking in the Tucson community.

Rooftop solar gives ratepayers energy choice. It saves money for all of us in the long run and it’s good for the environment. The sun shines brightly all over Arizona. Don’t let Tucson Electric Power cast a shadow on Southern Arizona.

Ron Barber, a Democrat, represented Southern Arizona, and Barry Goldwater Jr., a Republican, represented California in the U.S. House of Representatives.