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Clean energy means more jobs, not less

The Arizona Republican Party recently issued a press release stating that I want to “eliminate 1,000 coal jobs” on Navajo land. That statement is so far removed from reality that it warrants a direct response.

The issue that raised their ire was my asking whether spending $1.1 billion to $1.6 billion of ratepayer money to purchase the departing ownership shares of the Los Angeles Department of Water and Power (LADWP) and NV Energy, and update the air quality systems at the Navajo Generating Station (NGS) is a wise investment. Given that our neighboring states and utilities around the country are abandoning coal and investing heavily in natural gas and renewable energy generation, is sinking good money into a 40-year-old plant our only choice?

When studies show that for every $1 spent, clean energy creates three times more jobs than fossil fuels, what’s wrong with looking into alternative investments? Clean energy can increase the number of available jobs and address environmental and health issues people are concerned about. We know that coal fuel and compliance costs are going to continue to increase as time goes on, so why invest in technologies that only increase the cost of electricity? Why restrict the Navajo economy when diversifying the energy mix at NGS by adding wind, solar PV or solar CSP could create 3,000 new jobs?

What I want, along with many others, is to diversify and transform the Navajo economy by expanding the mix of energy and create even more jobs that could be filled by Navajo and Hopi people. I want them to earn higher wages, enjoy better working conditions, lead healthier lives and have better career options for generations to come.

Leave it to the Arizona Republican leadership to want to continue to limit the economic, employment and investment opportunities in Native American lands by willfully ignoring new opportunities and energy trends.

One thing that has been sorely missing from Arizona in recent years is an open and honest dialogue about our energy future. The free market in the U.S. is moving away from coal and toward other forms of generation, including renewables and natural gas. A diversified energy portfolio that employs renewable energy at NGS will employ more people at higher wages than work there now. We should explore and discuss this opportunity rather than dismissing it out-of-hand for purely political purposes.

Think about it: Arizona has far more to gain from increasing clean energy than it has to lose from reducing coal-fired power. As the sunniest state in the U.S., let’s lead the way — and have an open discussion.

— Nancy LaPlaca is exploring a 2014 candidacy for the Arizona Corporation Commission.


  1. Diane D'Angelo

    The AZ GOP is already starting a smear campaign against Nancy LaPlaca? She must be doing something right! Fighting against a solar energy expert like Nancy in a state with 300+ sunny days a year is comparable to Alaska denigrating someone who knows how to make money from ice.

    It’s time to get real, AZ.

  2. I support clean energy. I am Navajo and my family lives near where Peabody mines coal which supplies NGS and most of Navajos and Hopis on Black Mesa are so ready for solar due to drastic impacts mining has on our only potable water, air, environment and health.

  3. Mr. Terry Finefrock, CPIM

    Mr. Hamer & Macias,

    If you consider all costs, including those paid by ratepayers as taxpayers, an intermediate to long term horizon, and the benefits of transitioning to non-fossil fueled electricity generation, I don’t believe that your assessment that eliminating coal based generation technology will damage our State’s economy. I believe that when all factors and impacts are considered that renewable technologies provide considerable more value to our State and taxpayers.

    I don’t believe that it is responsible or beneficial to ratepayers, who are the same persons as taxpayers, to ignore the costs external to the utility cost model that are paid by taxpayers as a direct consequence of fossil/nuclear generation in your assessment. To do so would represent a clear lack of diligence, bias and inappropriate attempt to manipulate public awareness.

    Those cost and benefit considerations include and are not limited to:
    -Precious water lost to evaporation; ¾ gallon/kWh; 7 Billion gallons each year based on TEP Sales; per CAP alternative sources cost 10-50x more than current sources; Tucson Water Increasing their cost of water 8%/year next 5-years.

    -AZ Utility rates increase an average of 4.1% each year; Reductions in the cost of Solar electricity technologies are greater than those experienced by cellphones and personal computers; as more solar is deployed the greater the benefit for the market to provide economic storage solutions.

    -TEP surcharges to subsidize and compensate for the shortcomings of fossil fuel/coal fired generation now total about $1B per year(PPFAC; TOU/Demand & ECA); and because the base load coal plant generation cannot be reduced at night when demand much lower, TEP sells 20% of the electricity they generate to 43 customers at below full cost, less than ½ that they charge to Residential customers, shifting those costs to other customers.

    -Generation remote from where the loads are used, because the fossil fuel emissions are toxic to humans, and long distance transmission requires expensive transmission infrastructure (10% of Ratepayer costs) and as much as 20% energy loss, all paid for by Ratepayers. Solar electric technology is benign, can be located adjacent to the population and load centers.

    -AZ utilities are subject to EPA emissions and future carbon penalties; TEP included $350 million in their 2013 rate request. Those funds could be used to generate locally, PV SAT, to reduce emissions and EPA issues.

    -Local generation utilizing solar electric technology would enable Federal Clean Technology grants, future sale of Renewable Energy Credits to avoid carbon penalties, which could be used to fund more solar electric local generation and re-train/employ coal based jobs.

    -AZ Utilities could(should)act as “OEMs” and make large scale purchases of Solar Electric facilities, include preference for local manufacturing preference AND requirement to provide economical solar storage solutions. The community that sponsors/sites storage manufacturing will supply the rest of AZ, North America, Mexico and the world with those solutions.

    -Mexico utility rates are higher than AZ; these solar electric solutions can be sold by AZ firms to CFE/Mexico customers.

    -Higher wage local manufacturing and solar facility construction jobs will ENABLE and incite people to move to Arizona, create population growth; increase home sales and values, increase electricity consumption and the resulting increases in utility sales, fixed cost recovery and RECURRING tax revenues needed to balance state and local government budgets.

    I am certain that naysayers and paid special interest lobbyists can debate these opportunities…..and am equally certain that the utilities, who pay the highest average wage of any industry in Arizona (20% higher than #2 and 2x average of all industries), are competent and could harvest these opportunities for the long term benefit of shareholders AND ratepayers IF properly led and incented to do so.

    The current “Cost Plus profit” rate structure is a disincentive for utilities to seek the lowest total cost solution; it should be changed to pay the fee or profit based on sharing of cost reductions; for example, reduce the rate to recover only costs (even those like wages that may be considered ‘excessive”, not “reasonable” as required by our Constitution)…pay the fee or profit portion, the Rate of Return on base rate, by sharing of cost reductions…same service levels….for example, reduce the costs by 10%, reduce the rate by just 4%…both shareholders and ratepayers receive value.

    A proven American model for implmentation of continuous improvement methodology and recurring value add in a(nother)government controlled monopoly market absent the typical controls provided by “Free (More Free?) Market” competition.

    Mr. Terry Finefrock

  4. Open discussion is great, and LaPlaca should try it. Along with some honesty. Maybe she could start by apologizing for the error in her misquote of the AZGOP. Here’s the actual AZGOP press release.

  5. Nancy you’re sorely mistaken. Ask yourself where does the money come from to create all these otherwise uneconomic solar jobs? Santa Claus? The Tooth Fairy? No, from ratepayers.

    And when to taker $100M/yr from AZ ratepayers what do you think happens in the rest of the local economy?

    Job losses!. But these job losses are diffuse and hard to see, where the solar jobs are easy to count. This is why people (like you) are so easily fooled into think this policy actually creates jobs and prosperity for AZ. When it is exactly the opposite.

    Talk to a Ph.D. economist. Read a book, but please don’t run for office and burden the state with your misguided ideas.

  6. There are Arizona Republicans fighting for solar: It should not be a partisan issue. Renewables are good — and necessary — for all of us.

  7. EcoSolarCool is a US brand of solar powered refrigerators & freezers, designed with advanced technology utilising innovative compressors and digital control systems.

    I heard that EcoSolarCool is currently taking on new employees in the US. You can log onto their site and send your resume and skills.

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