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State must modernize energy rules by increasing renewable standards

Renewable energy is a powerful solution to restoring economic security at a time when Arizonans need it most. The state must get on a fast-track toward modernizing its energy rules to regain the momentum we worked so hard to create.

Arizona utility regulators did a big thing recently, though it largely went unnoticed.

They should be commended for coming together in bipartisan fashion to support a plan that has the potential to help facilitate Arizona’s energy demands while creating local jobs and saving consumers hundreds of millions of dollars.

Arizona Corporation Commissioners Bob Burns, Boyd Dunn, Sandra Kennedy and Lea Márquez Peterson voted to expand the state’s Energy Efficiency Standard. Simply put, this means businesses, customers, schools and nonprofits will have access to energy-saving programs and rebates to help them reduce energy use and implement the most efficient technologies in their homes, workplaces and companies.

Indeed, this was a huge step forward for our state. But the chance to create a generational transformation of our energy portfolio still remains. On October 29, 2020, the commissioners have an historic opportunity to strengthen our state’s energy rules by voting to require utilities to generate at least 50% of their energy from renewable sources by 2030 and be 100% carbon-free by 2045.

The Arizona Technology Council has long called upon on the Corporation Commission to increase the state’s renewable standards.

Why? For us, it boils down to supporting the sector we serve. Arizona’s technology ecosystem is surging, especially in the clean-energy space. Arizona’s strong innovation in electric vehicle manufacturing, building the solar grid at a rapid pace, designing electric airplanes and making global advancements in water technology, just to name a few, illustrate the tremendous potential for scaling clean energy infrastructure and market development in the Southwest.

In March, business nonprofit entity Ceres published a report that for the first time measured the impact of Arizona’s renewable energy standard since it was established in 2006.

The report found the standard has provided significant economic and environmental benefits, including scaling investments and driving down energy costs through technology. Solar industry investments alone were pegged at almost $12 billion, which has stimulated job growth and market development.

But this standard now lags other states by being the lowest renewable energy requirement in the West. Since then, major corporations have embraced climate pledges and many of the world’s biggest and most innovative companies are pursuing ambitious renewable energy policies.

It’s important to note that the state’s major utilities — Arizona Public Service, Tucson Electric Power and Salt River Project — have all independently put forth goals to substantially reduce carbon emissions and produce energy from renewable or clean sources.

A strong vote at the Corporation Commission would turn these goals into reality and send a clear signal to the market that Arizona is once again ready to be a leader in clean energy.

Renewable energy is the answer to moving our state toward a cleaner, more prosperous future. And the Arizona Corporation Commission has the opportunity to make a lasting legacy in Arizona’s energy future.

Steven G. Zylstra is president & CEO of the Arizona Technology Council and the SciTech Institute.

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