Pinnacle West Capital Corp., which owns the state’s largest utility, last week said it has formed a third-party group to support candidates for an elected state board that regulates their industry. The move promises to inject $1 million into a race in which SolarCity Corp., a rooftop solar provider, is already planning to spend $2 million though a nonprofit it supports, according to officials from the two groups.
It’s the latest twist in a three-year political battle that’s been punctuated by charges of undue influence, an ongoing probe by the U.S. Attorney’s office and $300,000 in threatened state fines. At stake: A board ruling on a request to raise fees and drastically cut how much homeowners are paid for the solar energy they generate. It’s a decision, foes say, with the potential to hamstring a growing renewables industry.
“It’s not surprising that you are seeing campaign-style tactics in what should be a wonky policy matter because there is a lot at stake here,” said Tyson Slocum, director of the energy program at Public Citizen, a consumer advocacy group. “The rooftop solar issue has become broadly politicized.”
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