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By allowing community choice energy, Arizona could take advantage of solar potential
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By allowing community choice energy, Arizona could take advantage of solar potential

  • Ken Bosma|CC BY 2.0

Summer in Arizona comes with the one-two punch of high heat and high energy bills. The unprecedented heat caused by climate change makes hot weather even more dangerous for our health and leads to even higher air conditioning bills. In a state with so much sunshine, a natural solution to both of these problems is investing in solar power, one of the cheapest and most water efficient sources of energy to slow carbon emissions and lower energy bills for ratepayers. 

But Arizona utilities are not doing enough to invest in solar energy. Arizona Public Service, Tucson Electric Power, and the Salt River Project continue to invest in large natural gas plants and run coal-fired generating stations, kicking the can down the road and leaving customers vulnerable when the price of gas spikes. Just this month, the Arizona Corporation Commission rejected the Salt River Project’s second attempt to massively expand its Coolidge gas plant, citing poor planning and a rushed investment at the expense of ratepayers and the surrounding communities. 

Our monopoly utility model is outdated and is not serving customers.

Instead of being forced to use dirty coal or fracked gas, customers deserve a choice in the energy that powers their homes and businesses. What if Arizona’s cities could unleash the power of cheaper and cleaner energy, faster? What if we could provide energy to ratepayers while investing back in our community, instead of giving profits to shareholders?

With community choice energy (CCE), we can. CCE (sometimes known as community choice aggregation, or CCA) has a proven track record for success. Thirteen hundred CCEs in the U.S. already serve more than 30 million citizens in 11 states, according to LEAN Energy US

CCE laws authorize cities and counties to buy cheaper and cleaner energy at a bulk discount, passing the cost savings on to ratepayers. Cities and counties choose where their energy comes from. Customers then choose from a range of plans, often including a 100% renewable energy plan. CCEs maintain partnerships with utility companies, which continue to deliver power, manage the grid, handle power outages and bill customers.

Because CCE puts choice back into the hands of the community, it leads to a host of benefits. CCE programs across the nation have been contracting with solar developers to build utility-scale solar and many other carbon-free energy projects to benefit their customers. CCEs can also help cities cover their energy use of municipal and school operations, reducing expenses and aiding local budgets. 

And unlike utilities, CCE’s do not give any profits to shareholders, so they can invest back into communities: building electric car charging stations, helping customers purchase energy efficient appliances, and more.

On average, CCEs outperform utilities with more renewable and carbon-free electricity. Communities across the country are more often choosing 100% carbon-free electricity through their CCE rate plans, helping cities expedite their climate action goals by providing the opportunity to buy far more renewable energy and generate surplus revenues to invest in local energy programs and local power development. For instance, Columbus, Ohio, is developing a 100% renewable CCE program, while Ann Arbor, Mich., has identified CCE as one of the core pillars of its climate action plan.

Arizona needs to officially authorize CCEs and move in this positive direction. Tucson cannot fulfill its climate action plan with the current Tucson Electric Power energy portfolio. Phoenix cannot reach its climate goals on the Arizona Public Service timeline. As Arizona’s population grows, the public needs clean energy on a timetable that will allow for a livable, prosperous future.

This report was first published by the Arizona Mirror.


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