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Keeping on the right clean energy course for Arizona

The fight over a so-called clean energy ballot measure from California billionaire Tom Steyer has been in the news a lot lately. At best, this proposed change to our state constitution is ill-conceived and irresponsible energy policy. At worst, it is political gaming at the expense of Arizona residents. Either way, it sets Arizona’s energy future on the wrong course.

The Steyer camp arrogantly claims that opposing their bad idea of energy policy is the same as opposing clean energy, but that is not true. At Arizona Public Service (APS), we strongly oppose the Steyer initiative because it’s bad for customers and bad for our state. Here are some important ways the Steyer plan gets it wrong for Arizona.

First, this initiative is about renewable, rather than clean energy. Although the Steyer camp glosses over this, the distinction matters for Arizona. Steyer’s renewables are solar panels, wind, hydro and biomass; meanwhile, nuclear power, which is carbon-free, clean, and plentiful in Arizona, is completely excluded from the Steyer plan. We believe Arizona’s energy future depends on cutting carbon emissions and improving air quality using every carbon-free resource we have available; we should not pick and choose clean energy resources based on out-of-state political interests.

Second, the state of Arizona is already a leader in clean energy. We serve APS customers with an energy portfolio that is 50 percent clean, achieved with nuclear power, renewables and energy efficiency. APS owns and operates Palo Verde Generating Station, which produces more than 70 percent of Arizona’s clean power. We also generate about 14 percent of our energy from renewable resources, including nine large solar farms across the state, and almost 80,000 APS customers enjoy the benefits of clean energy from private solar installations, placing APS at the forefront as a national leader in solar adoption.

By excluding nuclear power from the clean energy mix, the Steyer initiative would force premature closure of Palo Verde. That is because nuclear power plants are designed to operate around the clock at full capacity, versus respond to unpredictable fluctuations in renewable energy. To support the extra renewables on the system, Arizona electricity providers would have to shutter America’s largest clean energy producer, and contract more quick-start natural gas plants to continue providing customers with reliable service on cloudy days and at sunset. This would increase Arizona’s carbon footprint, which is directly at odds with Steyer’s alleged environmental goals.

We do not need to change our state constitution to prescribe more renewables in Arizona. Just at the time when clean energy technologies are emerging and evolving, Steyer‘s mandate would leave zero flexibility in how we meet customer needs – taking decision-making out of the hands of elected leaders and voters, embedding California-style standards into our constitution, and costing Arizona families and businesses billions of dollars.

That is not Tom Steyer’s concern though. He does not live in Arizona, so he would not suffer the economic or environmental consequences of his bad energy policy.

As for APS, we are on course to provide customers with clean energy, now and for the long-term. We will continue to plan a future that responsibly supports clean energy in our state, while maintaining the reliable service customers expect. A growing number of distinguished Arizona business and community leaders agree this constitutional amendment is bad for Arizona and formally oppose the initiative.

We look forward to working with our partners to invest our time and energy in a clean energy future that works for Arizona, rather than in a ballot measure that will mandate our path without regard for the long-term economic growth and vitality of our state.