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Boosting economic recovery + job creation with clean energy strategies

Opinion: Clean energy and innovation could be a boon for Arizona’s economy – if we start planning now. A new report explains why.

Steven Zylstra and Doran Miller

Arizona is emerging as a national leader in technology and innovation, including developing and adopting clean and renewable energy solutions for our advanced economy. While indicators suggest our state may be faring better than others, huge sectors of our economy have suffered financial losses. As we look ahead to the state’s post-COVID economic recovery, the clean energy sector has the potential to play a significant role.

With that in mind, Arizona Technology Council and The Western Way partnered to convene a stakeholder process bringing together business leaders from across Arizona to generate ideas and recommendations for best incorporating the clean energy and innovation sectors into the recovery plan.

Now is the time to plan for recovery
We believe now is the time to plan for a robust recovery that not only replaces jobs that were lost but also prioritizes technology and innovation in a way that catapults Arizona’s economy to new heights.

Our new report, “Innovation and Clean Energy Industry Recommendations for Economic Recovery: Policy Options from Arizona’s Business Community,” gives policymakers a roadmap for incorporating the energy innovation sector into the recovery plan.

The report provides concrete policy recommendations and tools leveraging the strengths of Arizona’s innovation sector to benefit the economic and environmental condition of the entire state. A key recommendation includes encouraging market-driven adoption of energy efficiency measures and clean and renewable energy technologies.

A significant percentage of the energy we generate and consume is used to operate homes and businesses. Although technologies exist to meet energy needs with renewable sources, the cost of integrating them into new buildings and retrofitting existing buildings has been a barrier to more widespread adoption.

To further encourage and incentivize such use, the Legislature could consider passing a law allowing local governments to offer Property Assessed Clean Energy (PACE) financing to homeowners and commercial property owners. Additional recommendations include: 

  • investing in statewide energy infrastructure and identifying opportunities for public-private partnerships, and 
  • supporting policies that encourage advanced manufacturing, including funding programs that enhance the talent pipeline from Arizona’s community college and state university systems into the clean energy and advanced manufacturing sectors.

It’s critical for us to find innovative ways to produce the energy we need for our economy to grow while curbing the impact of energy production on our environment. The recommendations in our report address both priorities.

We need smart policy to make this happen
We know investing in the clean energy and innovation sectors is good for the state’s economy, and polling shows a large majority of Arizonans support such an investment.

We also know the clean energy sector and low carbon emissions are important tools for ensuring Arizona has clean air, a secure and sustainable water supply, and a healthy environment – all critical for our communities and economy.

Arizona’s business community is leading our state’s economic growth and developing the technologies we need to thrive even as COVID-19 and climate change present unique challenges we must address to ensure Arizona’s economic outlook remains strong. We understand how policy ideas and opportunities for clean energy innovation, development and adoption can help drive the state’s economic recovery. However, we cannot do it alone.

Leveraging the leadership and innovation of the private sector will require the kind of smart public policy and effective public-private partnerships that our report outlines.

Together, we can ensure that Arizona is positioned for a strong economic recovery and, at the same time, demonstrate national leadership in driving clean energy technology and innovation while mitigating the impacts of changing climate conditions.

Steven G. Zylstra is president and CEO of the Arizona Technology Council. Doran Miller is state director of The Western Way. Reach them at [email protected] and [email protected].

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