As part of the southwestern sunbelt, Arizona is the ideal state for harnessing the power of solar energy. Yet the State gets only 6 percent of its energy from the sun. Proponents of solar energy aim to alter the future of energy in Arizona by proposing an aggressive ballot initiative to increase this percentage significantly.
The goal is to amend the State constitution to increase the required renewable energy benchmark. The current requirement set in 2006 is 15 percent by 2025, which they are on pace to meet. The ballot would require 50 percent of the power generated by 2035 to come from renewable energy sources.
Besides the environmental benefits, supporters of the measure are touting the economic benefits too. Arizona aims to attract large technology companies that mostly have 100 percent renewable energy standards. As it stands with the current renewable energy requirements this would be impossible. Backers of the measure strive to alter the future of not only Arizona’s clean energy, but economic competitiveness as well.
A fight over the future of energy in Arizona has already cost over $50 million. And the struggle show no signs of slowing down.
The Arizona Public Service (APS) is the state’s largest utility and the biggest opponent to the measure. The APS has spent over $30 million on a political action committee (Arizonans for Affordable Energy), which runs ads claiming households would be effected to the tune of $1,000 ore more a year.
The measure is backed by an alliance of over 50 organizations called Clean Energy for a Healthy Arizona. Led by billionaire investor Tom Steyer, the group has been fighting back against the APS. In essence they claim old-school utilities are standing in the way of progressive and sensible climate policies. The group is confident that if the measure is passed in the long run it will improve Arizona’s ability to compete economically for generations to come.
To summarize – it’s an ugly fight. Tens of millions spent on attack ads, court challenges on signature validity, and bureaucratic amendments are just a few of the blows thrown. Opponents of the measure claim a dramatic increase of solar could create an abundance of electricity midday, yet fail to provide enough electricity in the later afternoon and early evening. Solar advocates counter that they can sell the excess to neighboring states or turn to energy storage as a solution.
Altogether both sides are completely dug-in, so the battle for solar in Arizona shows no signs of slowing down.
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