The Distributed Energy Resource Alliance (DERA), composed of solar industry companies, professionals and educators, urges Arizonans to vote no on Proposition 127.
We can all agree that using less fossil fuels and more renewable energy is good for Arizona. We believe that replacing carbon-based energy generation with clean renewable energy generators, such as solar and wind, is good for our health, our climate and our financial well-being. There is no doubt that burning fossil fuels such as coal, petroleum and natural gases, releases harmful levels of toxins into our atmosphere and is dangerous to our health, the health of our children and to our global climate.
However, DERA opposes Proposition 127 because of its intent to amend the Arizona Constitution. A constitutional mandate that states where 50 percent of our energy is to come from is reckless, restrictive and inflexible.
If the proposition passes and the mandate becomes a part of our Constitution, we may find that we need to utilize developing, or undefined, technologies, methodologies and goals that we simply will not be able to act on in the future because they are not permitted by the Constitution.
We acknowledge and support the need to adopt new technologies, to advance clean renewable energy generation and to provide for a more efficient integration with the utility grid. Technologies and policies must be implemented to allow more distributed renewable energy resources to connect to and integrate with the grid without sacrificing safety, reliability and efficiencies for all consumers.
If any of these options are prohibited or unclear due to this proposed amendment, they will require changing the Constitution – a monumental task in the future. Consequently, we may find that clean renewable energy growth is ultimately hampered by Proposition 127.
Solar energy is an amazing option for consumers who want to have a choice in how they receive energy and save money. But, too much solar energy creates grid problems that did not exist just five years ago. Historically, a solar PV system for one consumer provided 100 percent of its capacity as a benefit to the utility grid. However, at 5 percent penetration (Arizona is already over 5 percent) the capacity value of another solar system on the grid drops to a fraction of its generating capacity, and it gets worse as penetration increases. This is the reality of our antiquated utility grid.
Renewable policy in Arizona, and elsewhere, must consider transforming to a more integrated grid – one that supports distributed, individual energy generation. Solutions that we know of today, such as battery storage, energy management, demand management, thermal storage, energy efficiency products and more, can help with grid integration. However, much more is required than what we have available now.
There is no doubt that Arizonans, and those of us in the renewable energy industry, want a sustainable, long-term plan that promotes global health, local employment opportunities and benefits for our families. But consider this: We are technologists with long-term goals who do not want to be boxed in by a constitutional amendment. We are pragmatists who believe in a future that relies on clean, sustainable, reliable, and safe energy for everyone. Proposition 127 is too restrictive and permanent for our young industry to know if it will be helpful, or harmful, in years to come.
DERA’s goal is to form a collaboration between incumbent utility companies and renewable energy, such as solar, and other distributed energy resource companies to help with this transformation. DERA members understand what consumers want and the technology and policies required in order to make it possible.
We think about what comes next and we are planning for the future of our businesses. Our goals call for unhampered growth of clean renewable energy, distributed renewable energy resources available to all consumers, a utility grid that has transformed enough to handle it and the success of our businesses for many years to come.
We strongly encourage all stakeholders, legislators, the commission, utility companies, renewable integrators and the public to work together quickly to find a solution that paves the way for successful adoption of increased renewable energy standards and grid integration plans that benefit all of us. Proposition 127 is not that solution.
— Joe Cunningham is president of the Distributed Energy Resource Alliance and director of operations for Sunny Energy.
The views expressed in guest commentaries are those of the author and are not the views of the Arizona Capitol Times.