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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat

 

    ACC ties to coal industry impede future of solar energy, AZ workforce

    Arizona finished second in the nation, behind California, in solar panel installation in 2012, according to a report from the Solar Energy Industries Association and GTM Research.

    Don’t get your hopes up for a cleaner, more sustainable Arizona, though.

    In an abrupt, short-sighted and ignorant move to save its political ties with the coal industry, the Arizona Corporation Commission completely eliminated all of the solar energy performance-based incentives for Arizona Public Service and Tucson Electric Power. It also drastically cut incentives for homeowners to install solar panels on their homes.

    Solar panels can cost anywhere from $18,000 to $40,000 to install. There is a 30 percent federal incentive as well as local incentives to help curb the cost of initial installation.

    With more than 300 days of sunshine a year, Arizona should dominate the solar energy market in the United States, and for years it has been making strides in that direction. Performance-based incentives have been steadily reduced and the industry has managed to keep up.

    Another set of reductions were scheduled for 2013 in which APS would only receive $20.8 million in performance-based incentives and TEP would get about half of that. However, after the ACC’s decision, neither company will receive any incentives and now both companies will most likely struggle to remain committed to solar energy without any help.

    The solar industry in Arizona is less reliant on incentives than it used to be but it is unable to stand alone. Representatives from Mainstream Energy Corporation, Wilson Electric and Technicians for Sustainability, all of which specialize in solar panel installation, predict forced layoffs in the near future.

    The all-Republican commission’s decision will damage an already fragile Arizona workforce and it shows no consideration for the future of the state.

    In a pathetic attempt to justify its simple-minded decision, the ACC wrote, “We are deeply concerned about expected ballooning renewable energy budgets in the future, and their impact on ratepayers’ wallets.”

    What kind of impact will these cuts have on the future of sustainable energy and the environment in Arizona? We have the potential to lead the nation in solar energy, but instead the ACC is opting for out-of-date methods of supplying energy that damage the environment and fail to offer a permanent solution to our growing energy needs.

    In the same statement, the ACC acknowledged that the solar energy industry in Arizona was able to survive with small, gradual cuts to its budget in the past, which is exactly the opposite of a “ballooning renewable energy budget.” It also isn’t accurate for the commissioners to claim they’re protecting ratepayers’ wallets. Cleaning up the environment with emissions controls for coal plants continues to cost ratepayers every year.

    If the ACC is really interested in saving Arizonans money, it should think about cutting its ties with the coal industry.

    The commission apparently isn’t concerned with the ballooning budget spent on coal and natural gas. To fulfill Arizona’s energy needs, the ACC pours $2 to $3 billion each year into coal and natural gas plants. To make matters worse, most of this money doesn’t even stay in the state.

    Arizona would be the ideal location to invest in solar energy, if only the ACC wasn’t so politically corrupt as to impede the advancement of clean and renewable energy to help out its buddies in the coal industry.

    — Nathaniel Drake is a sophomore studying political science and communications. He can be reached at letters@wildcat.arizona.edu or Twitter via @WildcatOpinions.

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