Tuesday, October 27, 2015

TASC Follows Thru & Whines Away With Lawsuit

Last week, as expected, The Alliance for Solar Choice (TASC) issued a press release announcing the filing of its lawsuit against the Governor of Hawaii and the Hawaii Public Utilities Commission (PUC) asking the court for "preliminary and permanent injunctions prohibiting the PUC from implementing the Decision." (Click here for the press release and link to the lawsuit)

The reaction to the PUC October 12 Distributed Energy Resources (DER) Decision and Order among solar installers have stark differences.  For example, on one hand you have a local entrepreneur quoted in Utility Dive:
“It’s a good overall package of changes that needed to happen,” said Chris DeBone, Hawaii Energy Connection CEO and former president of the Hawaii Solar Energy Association. "Nobody likes change, but this is in the best interests of Hawaii.” 
The technology advances driven by the new policies “will catalyze changes needed to get to 100% renewables,” DeBone added.
On the other hand, you have TASC, an alliance of out of state, investor-owned corporations trying to capture and monopolize the roof-top solar market nationally with its third party ownership model as quoted in GreenTech Media:
Bryan Miller, senior vice president of policy at Sunrun, criticized the PUC's decision for being wildly out of step with Hawaii's politics. 
“The decision will not stand," he said. "It will be reversed either in the political process or in the courts, but it will not stand one way or the other.” 
"I’m so confident," he added, "because over 90 percent of the public in Hawaii says they want more solar, not less. This is going to result in a lot less solar, and will hurt low-income and middle class customers the most." 
To say that the TASC Complaint is self-serving would be an understatement with the Plaintiffs asserting statements like the following:
44. As a result of the Decision, TASC members can continue to do business in Hawaii only by significantly increasing prices to customers, or by incurring significant additional costs, to offset the adverse economic effects of the Decision.
45. TASC members either sell solar energy systems to customers outright, or enter into long term leases or power purchase agreements with customers. To the extent that TASC members are able to continue to sell solar energy systems at reduced prices or by incurring additional costs while the Decision is in effect, they have no opportunity to recoup those lost revenues or increased costs, even if the Decision is later found to be unlawful. (page 8)
Statements from other solar installers dispute the above assertions saying rooftop solar is still an attractive investment under the new grid-supply tariff.  These installers peg the payback period between 6 to 8 years (rather than 5 to 7 years under net energy metering) while a local economist calculates the return of revenue between 7.5-9%.

The PUC found documents submitted by TASC's did not support its claims (TASC's tax the sun campaign and politicking).  TASC now accuses the PUC of chilling its speech and further misconstrues events and actions that led to the PUC giving TASC stern warnings about its behavior.  The PUC Order quotes extensively from the July 10, 2015 Hawaiian Electric Companies' Motion for Order Requesting the Removal of The Alliance for Solar Choice From Proceeding.  However, the PUC declined to rule on the motion stating, "[W]hile there is merit in the HECO Companies' position, by issuing this Order . . . [the PUC] has prevented TASC from delaying the proceeding."  The HECO Motion is a detailed account of TASC's bad behavior with affidavits and documentation attached.  Interestingly, the TASC Complaint does not include any affidavits although the Complaint alleges:
38. The PUC singled out TASC because it sought "resolution of issues in this docket outside of the collaborative process," by speaking to the media on issues of important public policy. Further, the PUC indicated it "will closely scrutinize the behavior of TASC and its counsel in Phase 2 of this docket" and would remove TASC if it continues to "jeopardize the collaborative process" by interacting with the media. 
39. The PUC's actions have and will continue to chill TASC's freedom of speech. 
One can easily eviscerate the Complaint's lack of understanding and misinterpretation of cost of service regulation/ratemaking process and administrative law.  But even more evident is TASC lack of a basic understanding of the PUC's sole role over the regulated electric utility and its operations to advance the public interest.  TASC's arguments make it appear that it is the PUC's duty to guarantee TASC's non-regulated members a profit.

While it appears TASC does not want to reduce its profits, TASC cannot ignore the growing technical challenges to integrate higher penetrations of rooftop solar.  Hawaii's electrical grids are isolated island systems with a finite capacity and where peak solar generation does not match peak demand.  Like Tragedy of the Commons, if left to TASC alone Hawaii's electric grid would be ravaged and destabilized for its own short-term gains to benefit a few. Again, given the technical challenges of the grid, suffice it to say TASC shouldn't be looking a gift horse in the mouth.  And, in my humble opinion, the grid-supply tariff is a gift but that's a subject for another post.

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