In just a few months, the coronavirus pandemic has dramatically altered our economic landscape both nationally and here in Arizona. Though we’ve been fortunate to have steady leadership from Gov. Doug Ducey and organizations like the Arizona Commerce Authority, climbing back onto our perch as one of the most dynamic and fastest-growing economies in the country is going to take hard work and innovation.
While Covid-19 has fundamentally changed us, what remains constant is our foundation as a technology and innovation hub driven by big ideas, talented entrepreneurs and a welcoming business environment. This is especially true in our renewable energy sector.
Renewable energy is a powerful solution to restoring economic security at a time when Arizonans need it most. Our state must get on a fast track toward modernizing our energy rules. And to do so, the Arizona Technology Council is calling on the Arizona Corporation Commission to increase the state’s Renewable Energy Standard and Tariff, or REST, to at least 50% renewable energy by 2030 and 100% carbon-free by 2050.
Technology plays a huge part in this endeavor. Arizona’s innovation ecosystem is making electric and autonomous vehicles, testing zero-emission semi-trucks, building the solar grid, installing energy-efficient devices, flying electric airplanes, and making global advancements in water technology, just to mention a few examples of the clean-energy space.
In March, the 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 REST 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.
Instead of sinking money into a polluting and shrinking sector like fossil fuels, we should be investing in an industry that has a vibrant future. The time to invest in renewables is now, especially when our economy needs solutions so badly.
It’s important to know that even our state’s largest utility, Arizona Public Service, already took a major step forward in putting forth a goal to reduce carbon emissions, committing to 45% renewable energy by 2030 and 100% clean energy by 2050. Raising the REST to reflect these more ambitious energy rules would ensure APS’ goals become reality. It also would send a clear signal to the market and give certainty to utilities and customers in the state.
COVID-19 has resurrected Americans’ memories of the 2008 recession. But luckily, Arizona has a clear path to climbing out of our economic security. Renewable energy is the answer to moving toward a cleaner, more prosperous and healthy future.
Steve Zylstra is president and CEO of the Arizona Technology Council.