Electric vehicles are the gift that keeps giving. Electric vehicles help cut consumer energy bills and boost the economy while protecting air quality and public health. According to a new groundbreaking study, if Arizonans register just 1 million more electric vehicles in our state by 2050, consumers and our economy would reap $3.6 billion or more in statewide benefits. If 90 percent of vehicles on our state’s roads are electric by 2050, our state could accrue $31 billion in benefits, with the average Arizona household saving an estimated $176 per year on their utility bills.
The independent study by national research firm M.J. Bradley and Associates was commissioned by the Southwest Energy Efficiency Project and Western Resource Advocates to examine how greater electric vehicle sales and use would help Arizona and its residents.
Today, it may seem optimistic to think that 90 percent of all vehicles on the road in the future will run on electric motors, but such industry wide revolutions aren’t unprecedented. Just think about how fast Americans adopted automobiles in the early 20th century, or, for a more recent example, how quickly consumers adopted smartphones – which didn’t even exist a mere dozen years ago. Consumers will embrace technology when it works for them and when it is affordable.
The good news is that, when it comes to electric vehicles, Arizona already has started to make notable advancements. Arizona is ranked 15th in the nation for electric vehicle sales, which have grown six-fold in our state since 2011. Broad electric vehicle adoption means Arizona will, by necessity, develop businesses that provide charging stations and other services for electric vehicles. This kind of local and shared economy based on vehicle charging will, in turn, create local jobs. In other words, instead of out-of-state oil companies, it will be Arizona and Arizonans who will benefit from energy independence – both in the job sector and in reduced imported fuel costs.
Perhaps even more directly significant to ratepayers, the Arizona Corporation Commission is expected to adopt a policy this month that – if the commission strives to achieve the findings of this study – can provide a strong boost to the electric vehicle economy and utility customers. If our regulators encourage charging electric vehicles during the hours when energy is less expensive and more abundant, a utility’s resources can be more effectively employed and savings can be passed on to all ratepayers, not just electric vehicle owners. And that they should.
We are pleased that commissioners are increasingly mindful of the benefits that electric vehicles can bring to our electric system and that they are considering how to best advance electric vehicle adoption. To us, the next step is clear: build a roadmap to capture the billions of dollars in consumer savings Arizonans can enjoy through advancing the electric vehicle economy in our state.
— Diane E. Brown is the executive director of the Arizona PIRG Education Fund., which conducts research and education on issues in the public interest.
The views expressed in guest commentaries are those of the author and are not the views of the Arizona Capitol Times.