ORIGINAL REPORTING: Is TASC splintering the rooftop solar industry?
Is TASC splintering the rooftop solar industry?; A leading solar advocacy group is drawing criticism from its own industry
Herman K. Trabish, December 3, 2015 (Utility Dive)
Editor’s note: After this story was published, SolarCity hired Federal Energy Regulatory Commission Chair Jon Wellinghoff to refocus its participation in regulatory proceedings.
Issues at the state level regarding utilities and solar valuation have driven wedges into the solar industry. The behavior of one national advocacy group – The Alliance for Solar Choice (TASC) – has come under special scrutiny. While the new contention is a sign the industry is maturing, internal divides could weaken the sector’s ability to win favorable public policies – a capability crucial for a sector that still only supplies about 1% of U.S. electricity generating capacity.
TASC has been a vocal intervenor in a number of such proceedings since its founding in April 2013, aggressively lobbying for the preservation of retail rate net metering and other pro-solar policies. TASC’s backers say its tactics get results, but others decry its behavior in regulatory dockets as counterproductive to utility-solar dialogue. TASC did not reply to repeated requests for comment from Utility Dive on the allegations raised throughout this piece.
The splintering is widely thought to have begun in the 2013 Arizona Corporation Commission (ACC) debate over a fixed charge for solar owners. ACC commissioners said that because of TASC tactics “free, open, honest debate” was shut down. House Rep. Sara Gideon (D), the Maine House of Representatives Assistant Majority Leader, had a similar criticism. And TASC’s efforts in defense of NEM in Hawaii have met with a similar response. While it denied any disagreement with TASC’s tactics, SolarCity, the leading U.S. residential solar installer, ended its membership in the advocacy group.
Experts say the development of more comprehensive value of solar packages could help resolve issues in the long run. Value of solar (VOS) studies date to at least 2006, according to Pace Energy and Climate Center Executive Director Karl Rabago who, as an Austin Energy executive, led one of the earliest value of solar implementations. VOS is a “forward-looking approach that recognizes that the ad-hoc use of the retail rate for NEM was rough justice and analysis is more appropriate,” he explained. It is intended to provide a data-driven middle ground that would allow regulators to escape being caught between utilities and solar advocates. click here for more