Arizona Eagletarian

Arizona Eagletarian

Friday, November 15, 2013

When will the Arizona Republic hire a competent energy reporter?

Lyin' Ryan Randazzo has gone unchallenged long enough.

In today's Arizona Republic, Randazzo:
  • Again, fails to challenge Corporation Commissioner Gary Pierce about his brazen conflict of interest.
  • Again, in his write up (I'm hesitant to call it either reporting or journalism) of this week's Corp Comm decision to institute fees for solar customers, frames it entirely as if he is an employee of Arizona Public Service, not the Arizona Republic. 
  • Betrays some key facts that shed light on APS's true intentions.
Randazzo wrote: 
The new fees will not add to APS’ profits. Instead, they will offset a fee paid by non-solar users to limit the cost shifting from solar to non-solar customers.
Because there are so few solar customers, the reduction in fees to non-solar customers will be negligible.
NEGLIGIBLE. If this is true, WHY did APS dump millions of dollars of ratepayer money into a media propaganda campaign attacking solar and claiming they have been harmed by net metering?

Did Lyin' Ryan not have to take any business classes when he was working on his journalism degree? He (falsely) claims the new fee will not add to APS' profit. Maybe the Arizona Republic's business editor can give Ryan a refresher course on the equation Revenue - Expenses = Profit. This fee will increase revenue for APS. Therefore, it will increase profit.

The fact of this matter is that APS wanted to get its foot in the door. The concept is incrementalism. They fully expect to go after more money from solar customers in the future. They view, as revealed by industry sources who claim to have had conversations with APS, the solar industry as a "disruptive challenge."

In my email inbox today, I received information from the Oregon Solar Energy Industries Association:
A critical new front in the fight to slow climate change is the one shaping up between the present coal-, nuclear-, and gas-based monopoly utilities and solar energy. Early this year the utilities’ think tank, the Edison Electric Institute, issued a major report on the “disruptive challenges” posed by the onslaught of low-priced solar. Others have described the threat as a potential “death spiral” for those utilities that fail to adapt. The utilities are fighting back in Arizona, Colorado, and elsewhere.
APS cannot truthfully deny that it has been fighting back. But instead of focusing on a business model that will enable them to adapt to emerging technologies, they attack those techologies and the businesses that advance them.

"Disruptive challenges" is a bastardization of the concept of disruptive innovation. By removing "innovation" from its messaging, Edison Electric Institute (and APS) hide from its target audience the fact that it is facing disruptive challenges BECAUSE of technological innovation. Why on earth would anyone think they can win by hindering technological advancement?

Think DINOSAURS. Dinosaurs, of course, are extinct. They couldn't adapt to an environmental catastrophe, so they died out. Quickly. That's what APS faces. But they have had more than a decade to adapt to the coming disruptive technological innovation. APS's executive management has known about those challenges for a LONG time.

EEI is an industry association (union) that likes to masquerade as a think tank. IF it's any kind of tank, it's a STINK tank. (h/t to the Center for Media and Democracy for the term "stink tank"). It says of itself,
EEI’s mission is to ensure members’ success by advocating public policy, expanding market opportunities, and providing strategic business information.
In other words, it represents Investor Owned Utilities and advocates for THEM, NOT for the PUBLIC served by the IOUs. 

In the same email with the blurb from the Oregon group, Portland General Electric lobbyist Brendan McCarthy said,
I... want to exhort you to not lump all utilities into this same category and to be mindful of the loaded language used in the message from the Climate Reality Check Coalition. First off, EEI is not a “think tank” but a trade association. Second, the “disruptive challenges” report referred to was more about the financial implications of disruptive forces and the strategic considerations that utilities must begin to integrate into their long-term planning, than it was about an attack against such disruptive challenges. Third, the fact that coalition refers to utilities “fighting back” indicates more about their own feelings on the topic than it does the utilities. (emphasis mine)
This is lobbyist speak for trying to deny the plain truth. APS has been attacking solar. The utility told its faithful lapdog, Lyin' Ryan Randazzo that the financial harm the company has suffered because of solar customers is NEGLIGIBLE. But APS tells its industry buddies that they have been harmed substantially. McCarthy continues:
I have had lengthy conversations with people at APS, SDG+E [San Diego Gas & Electric] and Xcel. I would hesitate to call anything that they are doing as “fighting back.” EEI and utilities are pointing to the real issues posed by the increased penetration of distributed generation and have been, in some cases ham-handedly, attempting to “fix” the problem through the regulatory model. While some of these attempts have been poorly constructed, that does not mean that the underlying problems do not need correction. APS now has 19,000 net metered customers out of 1.1 million. They are seeing about 500 customers a month install systems and they estimate that each residential solar customers is costing the utility $1000 a year. They have no cap on net metering and they have a rate structure that, with TOU rates, exacerbates the cross-subsidies seen. Even their rate payer advocate, RUCA [sic], recognizes the problem and agrees with APS that there should be a grid fee imposed in order to limit the cross subsidy and lost revenue problem. It is only natural that APS would “fight back” against a program that was designed as an incentive program and now has grown large enough to cause difficulties to the local utility. (again, emphasis mine)
In one breath, McCarthy claims APS has not been attacking solar; in the next, he says, oh, by the way, those attacks are justified. He would hesitate to call anything they are doing as "fighting back;" 'it is only natural that APS would "fight back."' By the way, APS is now telling other EEI member utilities that EACH residential solar customer is costing it $1000.00/year. How does that jive with what Lyin' Ryan has been reporting? Of course, McCarthy probably just took some exaggerating executive or public relations person's word for it.

Dear reader, nothing about APS's recent misadventures with Dark Money propaganda campaigns is at all innocuous.

All five members of the Corporation Commission, clearly a wholly owned subsidiary of ALEC, either voted to impose the new fees or opposed doing so because they wanted to penalize solar customers even more. That action validates what this blog and others have predicted since before the 2012 general election.

I'm encouraged that, as Channel 12's Mark Curtis noted (see the video clip), nearly a thousand people showed up to tell the Corporation Commission not to penalize the solar energy industry. But neither Mark Curtis nor Brahm Resnik (who reported, on camera from the ACC) wrote the stories for the print or online editions of the Arizona Republic on this issue.

It is high time that the Republic sent Lyin' Ryan packing. He's got a promising future in fossil fuel industry public relations, but he is most certainly NOT a credible journalist.

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