Arizona is quite possibly the sunniest state in the union. In fact, Yuma, AZ is the sunniest place on Earth. So it only makes sense that Arizona should be positioning itself at the forefront of the fast growing solar power generation industry. The coming solar revolution could bring thousands of jobs to the state while helping reduce our dependence on fossil fuels. And for a while, it looked like we were doing a decent job of taking advantage of that fact.
Last year, Arizona enacted tax credits for manufacturers of green energy production equipment in an effort to attract business to the state. And it worked, the Chinese company SunTech set up shop in Arizona and a number of large scale solar projects are on the drawing board. The Arizona Corporation Commission (ACC) also set a requirement that utilities in Arizona produce 15% of their power from renewable sources by 2025. That number should be much higher, but it’s better than nothing. Arizona also has a “distributed energy standard” which basically says that 30% of that renewable power must come from rooftop solar.
Despite all those noble efforts, the Arizona Legislature has decided to try their hardest to muck things up. House Bill 2701 would do away with the 30% distributed energy standard. And, what’s more disturbing is that the bill would redefine renewable energy to include nuclear and hydro-electric power. On its face, that doesn’t sound so bad, even to me. Nuclear power is an issue on which I diverge from the liberal line. I am absolutely in favor of this country bringing new pebble bed reactors online. However, Arizona is simply not the place for it. A state so awash in sunshine should be concentrating on solar generation as a market it could easily dominate in coming decades. What’s more, Arizona already has a nuclear generating station. In fact, we have the largest nuclear generating station in the country. I’ve toured the facility and I’m glad it’s there. Nuclear is by no means perfect, but it produces absolutely no greenhouse gasses and over the years, it has killed a lot fewer people than has coal based power generation.
So why is HB-2701 so horrible? For starters, the bill would assert that “the Legislature has exclusive authority to determine RE policy for the state”, essentially bypassing the ACC, which is the body traditionally empowered to regulate utilities. But it gets worse, remember that goal set by the ACC that Arizona produce 15% of its energy from renewable sources by 2025? Well, almost 30% of the energy produced by Arizona’s largest utility comes from that nuclear plant we just finished talking about. That means that if HB-2701 becomes law, that utility would already be in compliance with the 2025 renewable energy goal. Furthermore, as I said, Arizona is the sunniest state in the country! The state should be doing everything we can to encourage development of solar power projects here. Arizona has been one of the states hardest hit by the Great Recession and this bill could cost the state thousands of potential jobs. Arizona should be doing everything it can to bring jobs to the state. Especially green jobs that put people to work while positioning the state at the cutting edge of the new green economy.
HB-2701 will discourage job growth and discourage solar production. It’s bad for the economy, bad for the planet, and bad for working Arizonans.