GOP legislators should get out of the way of needed clean energy standards

March 2, 2021 1:37 pm

Crews in 2012 installing mirrored parabolic trough collectors, built on site, that will cover 3 square miles at Abengoa’s Solana Plant. Solana is a 280 megawatt utility scale solar power plant in Gila Bend. It was designed to generate 280 MWs of clean energy serving more than 70,000 Arizona homes. Photo by Dennis Schroeder | National Renewable Energy Laboratory

The ongoing energy and human disaster following the recent historic freeze in Texas has created an immense nationwide awareness of the importance of safe and effective energy policies.  

Here in Arizona, we face critical decisions on our energy future regarding the wellbeing of our citizens and our economic viability. That’s why I stand in strong opposition to legislation that would strip the Arizona Corporation Commission (ACC) of its ability to set renewable energy standards.  In a nutshell, Senate Bill 1175 is an unconstitutional power grab by the Republican-controlled legislature in order to derail the commission’s new, modernized clean energy rules.  

This bill targets and threatens the bipartisan clean energy rules now being considered — rules that will save ratepayers money, clean up our air and boost our economy. The ACC’s clean energy rules allow us to benefit from the least expensive sources of electricity as renewables and energy efficiency save ratepayers money, because there are no fuel costs with renewables as there are with fossil fuel sources.  

The ACC is an independent elected body, constitutionally charged with setting energy policy and regulating utilities. The Arizona Legislature is not in charge of the Corporation Commission and lacks the legal standing to pass this bill, a position the Arizona Supreme Court recently made clear when it ruled in Johnson Utilities v. Arizona Corporation Commission that “the legislature may only enlarge, not lessen, the Commission’s authority.”  

These rules, which are the target of much of this legislation, were not railroaded through the ACC, but instead have gone through a thorough bipartisan and public review process. They were developed over a period of two years, with extensive stakeholder engagement and vetting from citizens, as well as those from the financial, environmental and technology industries.    

When it comes to making critical decisions on Arizona’s energy portfolio, regulation and ratemaking, we must have those experts making the decisions. In the legislature, we are expected to know a little about a lot of topics as we aim to debate a record number of bills in less than 100 days. Meanwhile, the Corporation Commission is laser-focused 365 days a year on these vital energy issues.   

Further, these new clean energy standards are good for Arizona’s economy. Businesses are demanding more affordable sources of energy and cleaner air, which is not only good for the environment but for their bottom line. Companies like Google, the Greater Phoenix Chamber of Commerce, Tesla and the Arizona Technology Council, which represents more than 800 tech sector businesses and more, support the ACC’s clean energy rules and oppose SB1175 because it would create an uncertain business environment for clean energy investments. The new energy standard will put Arizona on track to establish itself as a leader in clean, renewable energy and energy efficiency. Arizona’s clean energy industry already is a major driver of economic growth, creating good-paying jobs that can’t be easily outsourced. 

The advanced energy sector already employs 69,000 Arizonans — twice as many as the state’s agriculture and mining industries combined. We need more jobs like that. Instead, Republicans are forcing through this bill that risks tens of thousands of jobs in our state by creating economic uncertainty in clean energy investments.  

The bottom line is that clean energy is the future. This bill stifles that future, allowing other states to race ahead of us in attracting successful sustainable businesses and jobs and creating a healthier, cleaner environment. As Lee Iacocca said, “Lead, follow, or get out of the way.”

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