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Op-ed: Give solar energy a fair chance in Utah

Published February 22, 2014 1:01 am
This is an archived article that was published on sltrib.com in 2014, and information in the article may be outdated. It is provided only for personal research purposes and may not be reprinted.

By Barry Goldwater Jr.

The utility monopoly assault on solar energy is spreading from state to state, and Utah appears to be next. On Feb. 1, The Salt Lake Tribune published an editorial, "Rates should be fair, and green."

The arguments for a tax on solar energy sound very much like what utility monopoly Arizona Public Service (APS) is saying in Arizona.

My name is Barry Goldwater Jr. and I am Co-Chairman of TUSK, which stands for Tell Utilities Solar won't be Killed. Just as my father stood for conservative values such as choice and free markets, I stand for energy choice and energy independence. We fought APS' attempts to kill solar when the utility proposed a $50-$100 a month solar tax. Instead, the utility got a $5 a month tax imposed on new rooftop solar customers. Despite our efforts, the tax has already led to noticeable reductions in rooftop solar installations in my state. Indeed, they have been cut in half. APS used government intervention to harm a competitor. That's bad for the economy and it's certainly not the conservative way.

Conservatives stand for choice, whether it's school choice, health care choice, or energy choice. Conservatives believe in energy independence and solar plays an important part in achieving that goal.

Make no mistake, Rocky Mountain Power is taking a page from APS' playbook in seeking a $4.25 tax on rooftop solar users. The utility knows that such a tax would slow and damage the emerging rooftop solar industry in Utah. What's more, from the editorial, it sounds like Rocky Mountain Power is also working on a change to Utah policy that would guarantee that their tax request is granted, without sound analysis and in spite of what the evidence may show.

Conservatives support solar power because it encourages the free market over monopolies, because it creates jobs, and because an America less dependent on fossil fuels is a stronger America. Those arguments are not lost on GOP voters in Arizona. In an August 2013 poll, 84 percent of Republican voters in the Phoenix area said they would be less likely to vote for a candidate who voted to end the program. Another 2013 poll conducted in all Western States found that solar and other renewables ranked first in most states when voters were asked what two energy sources they wanted to see more money spent on.

The potential for solar energy in Utah is enormous. Despite an abundance of sunshine, Utah only generates .075 percent of its energy with solar power. Allowing private enterprise and the rooftop solar industry to thrive could drastically change that number. It would also give energy customers in Utah a choice as to how they get their electricity. Rocky Mountain Power knows this. That's why they are acting pro-actively to kill off a competitor. Let's hope regulators and policy makers in Utah know better.

Barry Goldwater Jr. is a former congressman and chairman of TUSK (Tell Utilities Solar won't be Killed).




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