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We need a statewide renewable energy plan

Solar panels and wind turbine against blue sky

Arizona’s economy is booming. Even with the Covid economic downturn, Arizona’s economy is making steady gains. 

recent study by University of Arizona’s Eller College of Management found that Arizona’s recovery from the pandemic gained significant momentum in the second quarter of 2021, with jobs, home sales, and construction showing strong upward trajectories. The positive outlook predicts Arizona jobs to regain pre-pandemic peak in the fourth quarter of this year, and the long-run outlook calls for continued strong growth with Arizona forecasted to generate job, income, and population gains outpacing the rest of the nation.  

Doran Arik Miller

Over the next 30 years, Arizona’s population is expected to surge to 10 million people, and the state is expected to add at least 1.5 million jobs in that time.  

As we experience this tremendous population and economic growth, we need to make sure we have sufficient energy to power our economy. That said, we all recognize that there are environmental impacts to traditional methods of energy generation. Innovation in renewable energy, including solar, wind, hydro, and geothermal, as well as other clean sources such as hydrogen, nuclear, carbon capture, and advanced energy storage, are demonstrating that there is a path to a low-carbon future, and that those methods of clean and renewable energy generation also help drive economic growth and create jobs. 

To put this in perspective, renewables represent a $64 billion market in the United States. In Arizona, we are witnessing the growth of this market. Our state is emerging as a national leader in technology and innovation, including developing and adopting advanced energy solutions for our advanced economy. From solar energy to zero emissions vehicles to research in sustainability and infrastructure improvements, Arizona’s economy is benefiting from this industry.  

Jaime Molera

Some of Arizona’s largest businesses, including Apple, PepsiCo, and Target, have applied positive pressure on Arizona utilities to provide them with clean and renewable energy options, and Arizona’s three largest utilities have now committed to generating most of their energy from carbon-free sources in the coming decades. 

Arizona has become a hub for the zero-emissions vehicle industry, with companies like Lucid Motors, Nikola Corporation, ElectraMeccanica and others within the supply chain establishing a strong and growing presence in the state. Nikola is also spearheading research and development in the future of the hydrogen economy. We have companies like First Solar taking an innovative and sustainable approach to solar power, and Kore Power is doing the same with battery storage.   

The clean energy and innovation sectors are already playing a significant role in driving Arizona’s economy. But if we want this trend not just to continue but to accelerate, we need a coordinated and strategic statewide approach that not only recognizes the role clean energy plays in economic development but also leverages the leadership and innovation of the private sector. That is going to require the right policy framework, incentives, and opportunities for public private partnerships, including updated and modernized energy rules from the Arizona Corporation Commission; incentives for greater adoption and deployment of energy efficiency measures and technologies; coordinated investment in statewide infrastructure projects for zero emission vehicles and other types of renewable energy infrastructure; and investment in research, development, and commercialization of new technologies. 

It is also imperative that Arizona has a comprehensive statewide plan for other impacts of the changing energy landscape. That means developing a coordinated approach on issues like electric vehicle infrastructure and energy storage to ensure that rural Arizona has a seat at the table and that new technologies can be rapidly adopted by consumers and utilities alike.     

Arizona is witnessing tremendous success in expanding our economy. While a competitive business climate with low taxes and limited regulatory intrusion has drawn businesses to our state, now is the time to examine how better coordination and leadership from our businesses and policymakers at all levels can lead to even greater success.    

Doran Arik Miller and Jaime Molera are the Arizona directors of The Western Way, a nonprofit organization that builds support for commonsense market-driven solutions to environmental challenges that support the economy and improve the environment.   

 

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