On May 20, Pinnacle West Capital, the holding company that owns Arizona’s largest utility, will host its annual meeting at the Heard Museum in central Phoenix. Shareholders will elect directors and approve executive compensation packages. They’ll also vote on a less routine proposal: a requirement that Pinnacle West disclose contributions to nonprofit advocacy groups that can raise and spend unlimited amounts of money in elections without identifying donors.
“Investors don’t understand how these activities are helping the company and would like more transparency of what they are doing and how they are spending shareholder dollars that appear to undermine renewable energy policy in the state,” says Amelia Timbers, an energy program manager for As You Sow, a shareholder advocacy group focused on social issues. As You Sow wrote the proposal on behalf of Calvert Investment Management and First Affirmative Financial Network, two socially conscious investment funds that own or advise clients who own Pinnacle West shares.
The shareholder revolt grew out of a bruising election last November for two open seats on the Arizona Corporation Commission, which regulates utilities in the state. Candidates who were considered friendly to the fast-growing solar industry were defeated after two nonprofits, Save Our Future Now and the Arizona Free Enterprise Club, spent $2.3 million on ads and mailings against them. Pro-solar activists say the nonprofits were funded by Pinnacle West and its power company, Arizona Public Service (APS).