Phew. It has been an intense few months for clean energy out in the western half of the country. Nevada has committed to providing 100% clean energy to consumers by 2050, New Mexico and Colorado have both passed legislation that supports fossil-fuel workers as the energy industry makes room for renewable energy, and Washington will be shifting to 100% clean energy by 2045.
Next week, Arizona has the chance to join the league of states that are championing renewable-energy advancement and climate action. On May 22nd, the Arizona Corporation Commission (ACC) will decide on whether or not to increase the state’s renewable-energy standard and by how much. State officials have a chance to ensure that Arizona benefits from more affordable clean energy that would also bring in jobs and revenue, while reducing our state’s dependency on dirty fossil fuels.
Yet, despite the overwhelming benefits of renewable energy that so many other states are embracing, some Arizona officials are trying to give utilities a free pass out of committing to affordable and clean energy. The renewable-energy proposal can either be adopted as a goal or standard, meaning the ACC can either require utilities to generate more electricity from clean renewable energy or merely encourage it. We all know our utilities need more than a nudge to invest in a clean-energy future.
The time for clean energy simply being “a lofty, maybe possible” goal is past; renewables are no longer a reach. Last month, clean energy generated more electricity than both coal and fracked gas. The prices for energy generated from wind and solar are consistently dropping everywhere, including in Arizona. In addition, electricity from new solar projects in Arizona now costs half as much as power generated by the state’s largest coal plant, the Navajo Generating Station, which is scheduled to retire at the end of this year. Jobs are a second economic benefit of renewables, with the renewable energy and energy efficiency industries already employing more Arizonans than fossil fuels.
Despite being one of the sunniest states in the country, Arizona is failing to take advantage of these benefits of clean energy. Only 6 percent of the state’s power comes from solar while more than 50 percent of Arizona’s energy comes from fossil fuels like coal, most of which is transported from other states into Arizona. Our state’s overreliance on fossil fuels isn’t just hurting our wallets, it is also damaging our environment and health.
We need the ACC to hold the utilities accountable for their overreliance on fossil fuels and the damage they cause to our health and environment. We need Arizona to be one of the states leading us towards a cleaner, more affordable, and healthier future. As one of the sunniest states in America with record low solar prices and affordable energy efficiency, our interests are best served by requiring an increase in both renewable energy and energy efficiency.