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Gary Pierce: Commission should be planning 50 years ahead

Even though Arizona’s population has remained stagnant since the onset of the economic recession, Gary Pierce says members of the Arizona Corporation Commission should be planning as far as half a century into the future to be ready for the growth that will happen.

“We’re going to have to plan. Fifty years from now there will be natural growth,” says Pierce, 58, a Republican from Mesa who is completing his first term as commissioner.

And that means there will be a need for solar power, which is not only environmentally beneficial but has some real economic benefits as well, says Pierce, who served in the state House of Representatives from 2001 to 2006, where he was majority whip for a session.

“Realtors tell us that homes with solar are more valuable,” he says.

Pierce says he is mindful that the Legislature is the primary authority on solar power regulation and incentives.

But Pierce says he believes that even within its authority granted by the Legislature, the commission can act to allow more businesses to provide and consumers to use solar power, which still involves a high financial buy-in cost for many customers.

“Its chief benefit is energy avoidance, which is to eliminate using non-solar power during the day and shift to its use at night,” he says.

Pierce says the top issue for the commission during the next four years is to focus on what the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency will do about adding surcharges to power companies as part of the commonly termed “cap and trade” proposals.

Power companies will be expected to pass huge surcharges to customers, as much as triple in the Tucson area and double in areas served by the Salt River Project, he says.

Pierce, who hopes to be elected chairman of the commission if he wins a seat in the general election, says protecting ratepayers will be his central priority.

“I’ve got to lead the commission in a way to fight the feds on this issue,” he says. “Our ratepayers don’t think they are paying too little for electricity. They think they’re paying too much.”

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