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Our View: Corporate sector can lead the way in securing Arizona’s clean energy future

Phoenix Business Journal

For several years, the corporate sector — with technology companies often leading the way — has set carbon emission goals and developed strategies to attain these. Most recently, this has moved from a differentiator to “the price of entry.” With increased public concern about climate change and Moody’s Analytics already providing tools to assess a company’s climate risk, the business community’s attention to lowering emissions is intensifying even further.

As examples, here are just a few of the pledges that Arizona Technology Council member companies have made:

  • American Express has a goal of net-zero emissions by 2035 in alignment with the Science Based Targets initiative.
  • Intel commits to achieving net zero greenhouse gas emissions in its global operations by 2040.
  • Lyft announced their commitment to reach 100% electric vehicles (EVs) used on the Lyft platform by 2030 since transportation currently accounts for the largest portion of greenhouse gas emissions in the U.S.
  • Phoenix Sky Harbor International Airport is targeting net-zero greenhouse gas emissions for the Aviation Department electricity use by 2030 through renewable energy projects, energy efficiency upgrades and utility partnerships.

Since 2014, corporate procurement has represented 37% of the carbon-free energy added to the U.S. grid and nearly every year companies have increased their renewable energy purchasing over the previous year. As corporate demand for renewable energy intensifies, Arizona needs to respond so we continue making our state business friendly. But what does this mean in terms of actions we can take?

Attracting more investment dollars – The states with the most ambitious clean-energy goals attract the most investment dollars and, therefore, tax dollars to their states. According to Chambers for Innovation and Clean Energy’s Arizona Clean Energy Jobs and Economic Impact Report, Arizona has secured $15 billion in clean investments. But as a top-rated state for solar generation potential, we need to push for more investments by first developing policies that allow expanded utility-scale development, expand corporate procurement options and capture the value that rooftop solar can bring to the grid. Why should Vermont or Utah, generally more snowy climates, generate a higher percentage of electricity from solar than Arizona?

Working directly with our utilities and regulators – Independent of the Arizona Corporation Commission, major energy providers have set carbon reduction and renewable generation goals. Tucson Electric Power plans to have 70% renewable power by 2035; Arizona Public Service expects to provide 100% clean, carbon-free electricity to customers by 2050; and Salt River Project targets cutting carbon intensity 90% by 2050. Let’s promote and support these efforts and encourage the ACC to set consistent and ambitious goals.

Supporting our transition to electric vehicles – As the world and Arizona convert to EVs, we need to be ready to power these cars with clean and renewable electricity and support the significant and expanding EV industry in our state. Arizona is home to Lucid Motors, Nikola, ElectraMeccanica, Zero Electric Vehicles, Atlis Motor Vehicles and more. These companies have also attracted an impressive supply chain industry that includes lithium-ion battery company KORE Power, battery recycling company Li-Cycle and parts manufacturer UACJ Automotive Whitehall Industries. Not only are these manufacturers requiring more renewables to power their manufacturing, but consumers want renewables to power their cars.

Centering the expansion of clean energy in equity – There is a long history of reinforcing patterns of inequality, particularly on the basis of race. From building highways through the heart of urban neighborhoods to redlining that created segregated communities, past public policy decisions have led to disparities that negatively impact quality of life in terms of education, economic stability and availability of transportation. The National Electric Vehicle Infrastructure (NEVI) Formula Program, an initiative that provides background, guidance and funding to help the U.S. reach its goal of 500,000 EV chargers nationwide by 2030, provides a massive national opportunity to build a national EV charging network that can create a different future. A future that emphasizes process equity through intentional inclusion of historically underserved communities, and a path forward that elevates and benefits communities in every part of town.

Taking these steps will not only benefit our climate but Arizona’s vibrant economic growth and stability in the long term.

Steven Zylstra is president and CEO of the Arizona Technology Council and SciTech Institute. Robin Reed is president and CEO of the Black Chamber of Arizona and co-founder and principal of EmFluent LLC.


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