Solar industry funnels money into Arizona Corporation Commission election

Posted at 6:40 PM, Aug 23, 2016
and last updated 2016-08-24 14:10:50-04

This year the solar industry is striking back with a candidate of its own, after dark money contributions backed two Arizona Corporation Commission candidates deemed friendly to APS in 2014. 

Save Our AZ Solar is funneling its big money to back the reelection of Corporation Commissioner Bob Burns, a Republican.

Burns tells ABC15 he doesn't want entities with business before the commission to get involved in the election. However, campaign rules forbid him from directly interacting with the independent expenditure committee, which had raised nearly $500,000 as of June.

"It goes all the way back to 2013 when I was first concerned about the way APS was basically trying to influence the commission," Burns said.

The five members of the Corporation Commission are tasked with protecting Arizona utility customers, but the commission has become a battleground for the two power companies.

Recently APS has asked the commission for changes to net metering credits and demand charges. SOS says that would make it more expensive for people to opt out of regular power for rooftop solar. Chairwoman Kris Mayes says that would have a crippling effect on sales of future solar installations.

Mayes said there are 65,000 homes currently with rooftop solar, "10,000 jobs in the solar industry, and 450 companies doing business in the state. I think that something to fight for and that's why we are engaged in this election."

Burns is one of five Republicans in the August 30 Corporation Commission primary. The top three vote getters advance to the general election in November. For more info on the candidates, go to the Arizona Secretary of State website.