Arizona Daily Sun Editorial • July 25, 2010
Whoever said that the states are the laboratories of democracy certainly got it right, at least when it comes to energy policy.
While Washington dithers over how to hold coal-fired power plants accountable for all the CO2 they emit for free into a rapidly warming atmosphere, states like Arizona are tweaking tax policies and regulatory standards until they finally jump-start the renewable energy industry.
The latest example comes with news that Arizona Public Service has finally awarded a contract for wind power from an in-state site. Yes, the winning bidder, NextEra, is from Florida. But at least the jobs in construction and operations at the facility north of Williams will be local, not in New Mexico, where APS previously had bought power.
The Arizona Legislature had previously approved tax credits for wind and solar energy developers, but they weren't competitive with neighboring states like New Mexico and California. When state tax revenues plunged, lawmakers said they couldn't afford to increase the credits, meaning plans for a host of local wind and solar plants stayed on the shelf.
UNDERWRITING COMPETING STATES
The Arizona Corporation Commission had required commercially owned utilities like APS to generate 20 percent of their electricity by 2020 from renewable energy, but it hadn't specified the location. That meant that Flagstaff-area public agencies and businesses, through the Sustainable Economic Development Initiative, were paying a renewable energy premium on their electric bills in hopes of future price breaks but in the meantime underwriting wind farms and solar plants in competing states.
Finally, as part of the most recent APS rate case, the ACC added a "Buy Arizona Wind" clause to its renewable energy standard, and the Perrin Ranch Wind Energy Center west of Highway 64 is the result. When operational in 2012, it will be the state's largest wind farm, generating several dozen jobs along with lease payments to private landowners and the state.