On Thursday the Board of Directors of SRP, one of our state’s largest utilities, will vote on a proposal that would impose an across-the-board rate increase and a tax on rooftop solar panels that will drain money from the pockets of Arizona’s families while effectively killing solar energy. In a state with boundless sunshine, it’s a bad idea, and the board should reject it. That was the message delivered to SRP by over 500 customers who rallied outside their recent meeting at SRP’s private country club, including more than 100 Latinos who also represent a third of SRP’s customers and could face as much as $600 more in yearly fees for rooftop solar.
The 500 didn’t mince words. They know the negative impact this proposal could have on their family’s finances. They also know the long term effects of allowing SRP to turn its back on its responsibility to put Arizona on a path to reducing pollution, improving our health and strengthening our economy. I was there among them as part of a community organization called Chispa, which helped bring together Latino families for this rally, even though SRP scheduled all of the public comment hearings in areas far from our community.
Latino families, like all Arizonans, have much to gain if our state’s utilities invest in clean energy and begin to cut back on half-century old technology. It’s impossible to understand how SRP can rely on less than 2% of its electricity from solar and wind sources in a state like ours. At a time when they should be investing in this clean energy source, SRP is instead making an aggressive effort to kill the solar industry in the state. Solar energy jobs decreased by nearly 13% between 2012 and 2013, and that adds to the financial pain felt by customers who will also be paying more under this proposal. For Latinos, there’s a direct impact as 30% of solar jobs in the state are held by the Latino community.
That’s why it wasn’t surprising that an astounding 90% of Hispanics in Arizona in a poll last year expressed their support for utility companies using more clean energy. Nearly two-thirds, 63 percent, strongly supported that. We’re a community that every single day strives to own up to our responsibilities, and we expect our utilities to do the same.
Presumably SRP held public comment hearings to hear from the public, and to actually take their feedback into account as they head toward a vote on February 26th. They need to acknowledge that they’ve heard this important message from their customers. To their credit, SRP listened to our community after their first hearing and by the latest had made interpreters available for those who couldn’t follow the proceedings in English. Now we need them to listen again. The rate increase and tax on rooftop solar are bad ideas. We need to move our state forward, not drag it back. SRP needs to back “sol not coal,” and reject this damaging proposal.
– Pedro Lopez is program director for Chispa, a program of the League of Conservation Voters that is dedicated to elevating the voices of the Latino community on energy and climate change, online at facebook.com/ChispaAZ.