As things literally heat up in Phoenix, it’s hard to not to shift our attention to that summertime necessity: power. Without it, our air conditioners simply become silent metal boxes.
And as Arizona captures the nation’s — and the world’s — attention as a major technology hub, we can’t just rely on the same ol’ sources to meet our growing energy needs. It’s important that Arizona embraces renewable energy technologies that not only have a much lower environmental impact but also provide energy security for existing businesses and tech startups, as well as increase energy independence.
I’m not alone with this sentiment. Results of a recent survey of state voters conducted for the non-partisan Arizona PIRG Education Fund serving consumers and the public interest asked how much of a priority should it be for Arizona to grow and use renewable energy resources such as solar and wind. A total of 86 percent of the respondents considered it to be important. Further, the voters were asked about the importance of the state generating energy from readily abundant homegrown sources instead of importing them from neighboring states. This time, 89 percent considered it important.
Forward thinking, eco-friendly businesses also are increasingly expecting their electricity comes from renewable sources. After all, for many companies, renewable energy is the future. Unfortunately, the state is stuck in the past as far as renewable energy regulations are concerned.
Arizona’s current Renewable Energy Standard & Tariff (REST) was adopted by the Arizona Corporation Commission in November 2006 to require 15 percent of energy generated be from renewable resources by 2025. The rules of REST apply to the state’s investor-owned utilities such as Arizona Public Service and Tucson Electric Power but exclude Salt River Project, which the Commission does not regulate.
We’re already so close to reaching this goal. According to the U.S. Energy Information Administration, renewable energy accounted for approximately 13 percent of the state’s net electricity generation in 2017.
It’s probably no surprise to you that solar is part of the equation. Arizona was behind only California in solar generation for the United States in 2017. In fact, solar energy accounted for about 6 percent of our state’s net electricity generation. Arizona also ranks third in the nation in installed solar generating capacity behind California and North Carolina. And there should easily be more on the horizon when it comes to our tapping into the power of the sun. Arizona’s solar energy potential is second only to Nevada’s among the states.
While increasing REST in 2006 was notable, Arizona has since fallen behind many other states in setting a strong REST. It’s time for Arizona to catch up. The Arizona Technology Council strongly encourages the Arizona Corporation Commission to increase REST to up to 50 percent renewable energy by 2030 to reflect recent energy technology advances and new market realities.
That’s just a start in the right direction. While a specific renewable target is important, a standard such as 70 percent to 85 percent clean energy by 2050 is a more ambitious focus for the rules. Additionally, a clean standard should allow for flexibility in how each affected utility meets the goal, the rules should include affordability checkpoints, and specific renewable targets should also allow for flexibility rather than being prescriptive.
Homegrown, renewable energy would create more local Arizona jobs. It also means Arizona would be less dependent on out-of-state sources and imported fuel. That would go a long way in forcing Arizona to do a better job of harnessing to our advantage sunlight — a natural resource that never goes up in price.
As Arizona continues to drive innovation and inches closer to becoming a leading tech hub, the importance of renewable energy to power the future is clear. This goes beyond avoiding brownouts in the summer. One of the greatest challenges for this century is powering the planet while reducing carbon emissions. And renewable energy is the answer.
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