Photo: Samuriah

Arizona and Renewables: 7 Reasons to Vote Yes on Prop. 127

, director of state policy & analysis, Clean Energy | November 5, 2018, 10:28 am EDT
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When Arizonans go to the polls tomorrow they’ll have a tremendous opportunity to take control of their energy future and put the state on the path to a much cleaner, healthier, more affordable power supply. Proposition 127 requires the state’s largest utilities to obtain at least half of their electricity from renewable energy sources, such as solar, wind and small-scale hydropower, by 2030. Here are 7 great reasons to vote Yes.

1. Affordable power for all

Arizonans currently pay more for their electricity than consumers in most other states, which places undue burden especially on the state’s low-income communities. Fortunately, greater investments in renewable energy could help alleviate those higher costs. In fact, a recent study found that achieving the renewable energy requirements under Proposition 127 could save Arizona consumers as much as $4 billion between 2020 and 2030. That’s because the cost of solar and wind have dropped dramatically to the point where they are cheaper than new investments in fossil fuels, especially in places with strong resources like Arizona.

2. Improved public health

Two-thirds of Arizona’s current in-state power generation comes from fossil fuel power plants, which pollute the air with harmful emissions and cause a myriad of public health impacts. Many of Arizona’s most populated cities, including Tucson, Phoenix, Flagstaff, and Yuma have very poor air quality according to the American Lung Association. Greater dependence on renewable energy sources instead of coal and natural gas will lead to less pollution and cleaner air for all Arizonans. That means fewer asthma attacks, heart attacks, and lost sick days each year.

3. Fewer carbon emissions

Last month’s dire report from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) assessing expected climate change impacts is a stark reminder of the urgent need to dramatically cut carbon emissions by mid-century. Arizonans are already experiencing climate change impacts such as extreme heat, drought and wildfires, and those impacts will only worsen if we don’t act now. Accelerating the deployment of renewable energy and relying less on coal and natural gas will help significantly lower carbon emissions in the power sector—Arizona’s largest source of heat-trapping emissions.

4. More jobs and economic development

With nearly 8,400 solar-related jobs in 2017, Arizona ranked 6th nationally. That’s laudable, but Arizona has the potential to derive so much more economic benefit from its solar resources. Instead, the lack of a long-term policy to drive solar deployment has resulted in Arizona ceding economic ground to other states. The renewable energy development supported by Proposition 127 will provide a significant boost to the state’s economy, spur billions of dollars in local investments and create thousands of new jobs.

5. Less stress on critical water supplies

Water is a vital, yet increasingly stressed resource in Arizona. Even though the power sector represents a small share of Arizona’s water use, any savings in a drought-prone state is valuable. Replacing coal power plants—a major driver of electricity-sector water use—with renewable energy would result in important reductions in water use, freeing up supplies for other critical needs.

6. Reduced risks of overreliance on natural gas

Arizona has no significant natural gas resources, but utilities sourced 40% of their power from gas power plants in 2017. Instead of investing more in homegrown clean energy sources, Arizona’s largest investor-owned utility, Arizona Public Service (APS), wants to double down on its use of natural gas by proposing major new natural gas investments (and virtually no investments in renewable energy) in its latest long-term resource plan. Why? Because APS can apparently profit more from investing in natural gas instead of renewable energy. But by significantly increasing its dependence on natural gas, APS would put its customers at greater risk of higher—and more volatile—electricity prices, poor air quality, some of the worst impacts of climate change. Passing Proposition 127 would put Arizona on a far more sustainable and sensible clean energy pathway.

7. 50% renewable energy is absolutely achievable!

Arizona is the sunniest state in the US but currently gets just 6% of its electricity from solar power. With today’s uber-competitive costs of wind and solar, rapidly falling costs of energy storage, and new advances in grid integration technologies, Arizona could tap far more into its wealth of resources and readily supply at least 50% of its power from renewables by 2030.It’s these attractive factors which have led numerous other utilities in the region and throughout the country to commit to 50% targets of their own. For example, Xcel Energy’s recently approved Colorado Clean Energy Plan will significantly increase renewable energy investments such that in total they will account for 55% of the utility’s power supply by 2026. In addition, seven states and the District of Columbia have adopted renewable energy requirements of 50% or higher, with several more states actively considering it as well. Proposition 127 will keep Arizona competitive with other clean energy leaders.

On November 6, Arizona voters have the power to propel the state toward a clean energy future. Vote Yes on Proposition 127.

Photo: Samuriah
Photo: US Dept of Interior

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  • Jortiz3

    The Union of Concerned Scientists has devolved since its inception. Any true scientist would understand that this proposition fails to consider to protect nuclear as a safe, clean, affordable, and dominant source of energy. If this proposition passes, one of the largest nuclear power plants in the world, the Palo Verde Nuclear Generating Station, generating 4 gigawatts of carbon-free electricity, will likely be shut down. The result would be an extra 18 million tons of CO2 per year, the equivalent of puting four million gas-guzzling cars on the road. A long chain of logical failures and history has brought this supposedly-science-based organization on the wrong side of science. Wake up.

    • Jeff Deyette

      Thank you for your comment, Jortiz3. It has long been UCS’ goal that to help prevent the worst consequences of climate change, the United States must achieve economy-wide net-zero emissions by or before mid-century. Decarbonizing the electric sector through a combination of renewable energy, energy efficiency, energy storage, and other low-carbon sources–including existing nuclear power–is essential in achieving that goal.

      The assertion that Palo Verde Nuclear Station would shut down abruptly as a result of increased renewable energy development has often been repeated since APS made the claim earlier this year, but it is not credible. APS has not provided any detailed analysis to support their claim. The only analysis ( to explore this issue found that Palo Verde would not be impacted by the implementation of Prop 127. Furthermore, APS could not make a unilateral decision to close Palo Verde. The facility’s ownership is shared by six other utilities (none of which would be obligated to meet the requirements of Prop 127) that combined control a greater than 70% share of the facility’s output.

      – Jeff

      • B

        I’m surprised to see such a copy cat verbiage from a lobbying firm on Union of Concerned Scientists.
        As an expert in the field you have to know that 9 times out of 10 if an operator of a plant isn’t making profit then the shared owners will usually side with the operator when it’s time to shutter the plant.
        Also if AZ is expected to get 50% of their power from renewables (majority solar since it’s the most abundant) and solar has a capacity factor between 25-30% then we know we will need close to 100% demand covered by solar during it’s short window of generation per day. This is will dip into base-load generation. Can’t send it to AZ neighbors since everyone else has a similar mandate for renewables. So what does a utility do to meet FERC standards? They have to load shed base-load power like Palo Verde. I bet you agree to this as this has been discussed multiple times before and is common across the country.
        The part you are missing is that the operator of Palo Verde has told reporters that they take 3 days to cycle up to 100% power. It’s due to the design of PWRs borated coolant for reactivity control plus some other engineering features that provide enhance efficiency.

        So I, as a nuclear supporter, want to understand how someone writing for UoCS would think that this permanent constitutional amendment is good for meeting my states emission goals especially when this blog just repeats the rhetoric of a lobbing firm. Do you have any other studies showing this prop is good for AZ or do we just believe the bias?

      • Jortiz3

        Hi Jeff, thanks for your thoughtful response.

        While the likelihood of Palo Verde’s shutdown is unknown and arguable, it is essentially certain that Prop 127 would increase the chances of early shutdown. Proposition 127 treats nuclear and coal identically. Any proposition whose primary goal is to reduce CO2 emissions should instead treat nuclear and renewables identically.

        And you and I both know that the funding and political forces behind Proposition 127 would like nothing more than to shut Palo Verde Nuclear Generating Station down.