Solar power is booming across the U.S. like never before, homeowners, utilities, businesses, schools and others are putting solar on their rooftops as prices come down and financing options increase. That’s scaring some people, like the Koch brothers, whose American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC), has supported legislation in states across the U.S. that would make it harder for people to go solar. For the large part those efforts have not had too much effect, but that may, unfortunately for solar advocates, be changing.
ALEC recently saw legislation it backed in Oklahoma approved that add charges to solar users. Meanwhile in Arizona a new interpretation of tax law in the state could result in solar power being taxed as part of property, which would instate annual tax charges on those with solar panels. That state also was subject to a barrage of efforts by ALEC and the state’s largest utility, Arizona Public Service (APS), to make it harder for residents and businesses to go solar. This despite APS being one of the nation’s biggest users of solar power, adding in 417 megawatts of solar in 2013 alone.
The Arizona Republic reported this week that under a new interpretation of Arizona’s tax law people who lease solar panels could face property taxes of $152 for a solar electric system valued at $34,000 during its first year. The tax would decrease yearly as the value of the system decreases. However, people who own the solar array are exempted from the property tax clause. Solar leasers and the companies that leased the arrays were presumed covered under the clause until last year, the newspaper said.
“However, after a review, the Arizona Department of Revenue last year interpreted that law to mean that leased panels don't fit within the exemption for residential solar panels that customers own,” the newspaper reported. “It determined that leased panels are more like merchant power plants and should pay property taxes like them.”
APS said it has not taken a position on the solar tax issue. But in the past it had admitted to working with ALEC and contributing to some of its Koch-affiliated campaigns, including 60-Plus a more conservative version of the AAARP.
Meanwhile in Oklahoma, not the same hotbed of solar as APS, ALEC succeeded in passing some of its model anti-solar and anti-wind power legislation, which was signed in law by Gov. Mary Fallin (R) on Monday (April 28)—great way to end earth month! That legislation SB 1456, allows utility companies in the state to apply a surcharge to customers that net-meter and sell excess electricity generated by their solar or wind systems back into the grid.
Prior to her signing of the bill The New York Times editorial board wrote: “At long last, the Koch brothers and their conservative allies in state government have found a new tax they can support. Naturally it’s a tax on something the country needs: solar energy panels.” The board observed that the Koch brothers see solar and wind as a long-term threat to their fossil-fuel powered business.Tweet