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Ballot measure sets Arizona on wrong energy course

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The fight over a so-called clean-energy ballot measure from California billionaire Tom Steyer has been in the news a lot lately. At best, this proposed change to our state Constitution is ill-conceived and irresponsible energy policy. At worst, it is political gaming at the expense of Arizona residents. Either way, it sets Arizona’s energy future on the wrong course.

The Steyer camp arrogantly claims that opposing their bad idea of energy policy is the same as opposing clean energy, but that is not true. At Arizona Public Service, we strongly oppose the Steyer initiative because it’s bad for customers and bad for our state. Here are some important ways the Steyer plan gets it wrong for Arizona.

Don Brandt

Don Brandt

First, this initiative is about renewable, rather than clean energy. Although the Steyer camp glosses over this, the distinction matters for Arizona.  Steyer’s renewables are solar panels, wind, hydro and biomass; meanwhile, nuclear power, which is carbon-free, clean, and plentiful in Arizona, is completely excluded from the Steyer plan.  We believe Arizona’s energy future depends on cutting carbon emissions and improving air quality using every carbon-free resource we have available. We should not pick and choose clean energy resources based on out-of-state political interests.

Second, the state of Arizona is already a leader in clean energy. We serve APS customers with an energy portfolio that is 50 percent clean, achieved with nuclear power, renewables and energy efficiency.  APS owns and operates Palo Verde Generating Station, which produces more than 70 percent of Arizona’s clean power. We also generate about 14 percent of our energy from renewable resources, including nine large solar farms across the state, and almost 80,000 APS customers enjoy the benefits of clean energy from private solar installations, placing APS at the forefront as a national leader in solar adoption.

By excluding nuclear power from the clean-energy mix, the Steyer initiative would force premature closure of Palo Verde. That is because nuclear power plants are designed to operate around the clock at full capacity, versus respond to unpredictable fluctuations in renewable energy. To support the extra renewables on the system, Arizona electricity providers would have to shutter America’s largest clean energy producer, and contract more quick-start natural gas plants to continue providing customers with reliable service on cloudy days and at sunset. This would increase Arizona’s carbon footprint, which is directly at odds with Steyer’s alleged environmental goals.

We do not need to change our state Constitution to prescribe more renewables in Arizona. Just at the time when clean energy technologies are emerging and evolving, Steyer‘s mandate would leave zero flexibility in how we meet customer needs – taking decision-making out of the hands of elected leaders and voters, embedding California-style standards into our Constitution, and costing Arizona families and businesses billions of dollars.

That is not Tom Steyer’s concern though. He does not live in Arizona, so he would not suffer the economic or environmental consequences of his bad energy policy.

As for APS, we are on course to provide customers with clean energy, now and for the long-term. We will continue to plan a future that responsibly supports clean energy in our state, while maintaining the reliable service that customers expect. A growing number of distinguished Arizona business and community leaders agree this constitutional amendment is bad for Arizona and formally oppose the initiative. We look forward to working with our partners to invest our time and energy in a clean energy future that works for Arizona, rather than in a ballot measure that will mandate our path without regard for the long-term economic growth and vitality of our state.

— Don Brandt is chairman of the board and president and CEO of Pinnacle West and Arizona Public Service.

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The views expressed in guest commentaries are those of the author and are not the views of the Arizona Capitol Times.

7 comments

  1. I don’t like nuclear anything. I believe in renewable energies. Solar should be on every home. Should be included on every new home built. Every office building and cars. It’s the safest way to go.

  2. There is no source of energy cleaner or more reliable than modern nuclear. France gets 80% of their electricity from nuclear power. Modern reactor designs cannot “melt down” and the spent fuel can be reused. U.S. nuclear technology is stuck in the 1970s due to fear and ignorance driving public policy.

    Regardless of your feelings about nuclear power, it’s a horrible idea to codify any technology in the state Constitution. Tech changes too fast and new methods need the freedom to develop to solve future problems in ways we can’t even imagine today.

  3. You cannot say that Nuclear Energy is clean when it generates nuclear waste that our government still has no decent plan for managing. Maybe start with John Oliver’s explanation and then start educating yourself on how bad the problem is. I would imagine that you would not call nuclear generation clean…. besides, believing in the head of APS or SRP is woefully wrong sided. These are the people that are trying to kill rooftop Solar so you will be forced to buy Solar Energy from them at higher prices…. APS & SRP are designed and managed to line their own pockets. They do not care about Arizona or the environment and have the politicians in their dark money pockets to prove it.

  4. U.S. nuclear power has a bad waste problem because, as I noted, it is ancient technology. The French and others have largely solved those challenges—we need to catch up.

    I don’t “believe” in APS or any public utility but fixing that problem is another issue entirely. The California plan will not fix either.

  5. I would be more inclined to jump on board with these talking points, but APS and SRP have spent tens of millions doing their best to kill solar in this State. They even spent millions loading up the Arizona Corporation Board with those that will vote in their favor, always … They claim to love renewables, but only if it’s their own. There shouldn’t be a flat spot in this state that doesn’t have a solar panel on it considering the amount of sun we receive. They have successfully been able to fine people for being responsible, and that’s absolutely reprehensible.

  6. Cheryl Pelletier

    Bottom line, California resident Tom Steyer’s clean energy bill is not the way to go. Forcing our state to do this via changing our state constitution is absolutely insane. Democrat policies, including clean energy mandates, are making it too expensive to live in California. Notice all the Californians moving here? Let’s not go the California route. We’ll only end up becoming another over-regulated state. Where will those from California and the rest of us go next, once our state’s cost of living spirals out of control? #Don’tCaliforniaOurArizona please!

  7. Im not sure I agree that any one should decide how and where Arizona evolves its power supply. The fact is, Solar power itself works great in AZ. We have lots of sunshine. People should be able to choose to use solar without repercussions. This may be something that power should start cost averaging out now, so that remaining users are not stuck with huge rates. How would consumers choose if they could save significantly in an “unencumbered” solar energy product market? Part of being smart and competitive is not being exclusionary, but ingenuitive. I think an agreeable solution now, should carry us forward far into the future without having to revisit this often- which is inevitable otherwise.

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