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Rick Fowlkes: Deregulation, smaller commission on tap

Although utility deregulation was a colossal failure in California, Libertarian Rick Fowlkes says turning the energy industry over to the free market in Arizona will be his top priority if he is elected to the Corporation Commission this November.

“Under the monopoly system, the power companies have no incentive to operate efficiently. In fact, they are rewarded for being inefficient,” says Fowlkes, 62. “I know for a fact that that happens. If they were forced to compete with each other, then competition would hold down electric rates much better than corporation commissioners.”

Fowlkes said he also wants to reduce the number of corporation commissioners to three from five. He says most of the commission’s time is spent conducting rate-adjustment hearings, which would be unnecessary in a free energy market.

Fowlkes, who ran unsuccessfully in the Republican primary for Corporation Commission in 2008 as a “Libertarian-Republican,” opposes the policy requiring utilities to get 15 percent of their energy from renewable sources by 2025.

“The renewable energy standard and tariff is a one-size-fits-all solution that doesn’t work for all the companies in this state,” Fowlkes says. “If we don’t allow some flexibility and some leeway, it’s going to have catastrophic ramifications on the rates for some ratepayers in this state.”

The majority of Fowlkes’ experience comes from his work as a structural engineer designing power plant transmission lines and other industry equipment. He has a B.S. in civil engineering from Tennessee Technological University and an MBA from Arizona State University.

Aside from energy issues, Fowlkes would like to see the commission streamline the process of starting a corporation in Arizona. “Let them get their business underway,” he says. “You have to have safeguards and protection for the public, but some of those hoops we make them jump through could be done after the company is already in business.”

Fowlkes says voters should pay attention to who they elect as commissioners.

“There’s a lot at stake based on the policies and decisions made by the commission. It has an impact on people’s livelihood, on their cost of living,” he says. “The decisions the commission makes are pocketbook issues.”

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