Have you ever asked yourself why you have no choice in how the energy you pay for is generated? On a hot summer day, do you think about electricity racing through wires to cool your home? Have you ever wondered why you don’t have any choice about where, or how, the energy that you pay for is created?
Arizonans pride themselves in valuing freedom, choice, and individual sovereignty. Arizona is one of the freest states in the country. Our residents choose which schools will educate their children. We’re all free to pick which airline we’ll fly to vacation in Cancun. And yet, Arizonans have been told for decades that they have no choice in what kind of energy they receive, or who they receive it from.
Salt River Project is relying on this status quo to get a favorable outcome during an important decision at the Arizona Corporation Commission. The ACC will decide by the end of March whether to allow SRP to spend almost $1 billion of their electric customers’ money to expand their already massive gas plant outside Coolidge. SRP thinks it can keep getting away with ignoring customers’ wishes, but we’re fighting back.
Energy prices are already spiking across America due to the volatility of gas, impacting all of our wallets. Arizona experiences more than 300 days of sunshine a year. Why then, do we receive the bulk of our energy from gas which must be piped in from other states and around the world? In these uncertain times, investing in stable, local energy sources like solar power is a matter of serious economic and national security.
As an SRP customer, I know that any bad investments SRP makes will impact my energy bills for the distant future. I also know that SRP greenlighted this project in only three weeks (announcing it on August 24, 2021, and approving it on September 13, 2021, without a competitive bidding process). This should be deeply concerning for every one of SRP’s 1,093,264 customers, none of whom had a say in the utility’s investment decision but may suffer from it.
Americans know that healthy competition in our markets creates cheaper, quality products. The electricity field is no different, and we’ve seen it in action. During the 2021 Texas winter storm, when energy prices spiked, customers who were served by competitive energy suppliers paid $287 less than the monopoly utilities. This price difference makes sense. If a company is sure that customers can’t choose another option, why should it care about the ramifications of its hasty decisions on customers?
We need to revamp our electricity system so customers are no longer held captive by the utilities. Ideas like Community Choice Energy would allow cities and towns to purchase energy for customers in a competitive energy market, instead of being forced to rely on one company. This would unleash the power of the free market to make sure that residents are receiving the cheapest and cleanest energy possible, while protecting them at the same time.
On March 15, the Arizona Corporation Commission began taking public comment to decide whether to approve SRP’s Certificate of Environmental Compatibility. We ask that commissioners deny this certificate, so SRP customers can be sure that our electric company is making the best investment for us and our planet’s future.
Shelly Gordon is state director for Arizonans for Community Choice.