Many Arizonans are either passionately on one side or the other of Prop 127. Others are split and really don’t know what to do. While some cast disparaging remarks about their misunderstanding of economics and a complex power grid, others accuse utility mogul APS of wielding control and dark money for their own self interest. The rest just want to be involved and do the right thing. So is this proposition really about renewable energy? It’s hard to say. My research makes it clear that is about a lot more than just solar power. In Part 1 of this series, we talked about what Prop 127 IS. Now, let’s get into some of the discussions.
Part 2: Arguments Against Prop 127
Now before we cast paranoid assumptions about how APS wants us to live under their thumb, let’s look at some of the arguments AGAINST Prop 127.
We already get about 50% of our energy from clean sources
The terms “clean” energy and “renewable” energy interchange often, but they don’t mean the same thing. Clean energy includes nuclear power. Renewable energy does not. Prop 127 does not mention nuclear energy in its list of potential energy sources. The more I research this issue, the more it appears how much the Palo Verde Nuclear Plant is a big part of APS’s opposition. I promise I’ll get into this more later in the series.
It will cost Arizonans more
Yes, maybe…it could. However, APS seemed very much not concerned with increasing costs with their most recent, controversial rate increase. Some customers were so shocked by the increase in their bill that they filed a complaint with the Corporation Commission. Also: no one ever said this was going to be free. The Palo Verde Nuclear Plant cost billions of dollars and was met with controversy when it was built. Hindsight is always useful.
It locks in today’s renewable energy technologies
Prop 127 lists these as the eligible renewable (not “clean”) energy sources:
- “eligible renew able energy resources” shall include electricity from a Renewable energy resource delivered to arizona customers that is generated from biogas electricity generators, biomass electricity generators, distributed renewable energy resources, eligible hydropower facilities, fuel cells that use only renew able fuels, geothermal generators, hybrid wind and solar electric generators, landfill gas generators, new hydropower generators of 10 mw or less, solar electricity resources, and wind generators.
With such a broad array of options, it’s difficult to understand what we’re “locking” into. Fun fact: we are actually having this argument because we are currently “locked” into using Natural Gas, Coal-fueled plants and Nuclear Energy. The above options are also incredible broad–they just don’t include “clean” energy options like nuclear.
It’s going to shut down the Palo Verde Nuclear Plant
The basics of this argument, much better explained by the Arizona Republic, is that Palo Verde is what they call a “baseload” facility. Because solar energy fluctuates, there needs to be an available source to handle the transition from massive energy production to massive energy use. Baseload facilities like Palo Verde are essential for this. In order to meet the renewable energy use percentage requirements, APS would not be able to “turn off” solar facilities if they were producing too much. Therefore, they would have to turn off Palo Verde.
Not to bank everything on energy storage, but APS is already working on this issue with solar energy. My most recent bill included this cheerful statement about setting up storage at numerous solar facilities.
It doesn’t affect how we USE energy
That’s a great point! Let’s get better at that. How many of us, especially in urban centers, really utilize the on-peak and off-peak hours of utility rates? These times (3pm-8pm for Peak rates) aren’t arbitrary. In the summertime, Arizona can actually produce TOO MUCH solar energy before 3pm. Then everybody gets home, cranks the A/C, turns on the TV, uses the dishwasher, etc. Then, demand goes WAY up, just in time for the sun to go down.
We need to adapt to the way power is generated in a renewable energy economy. Think of it as an opportunity to live a little more holistically with your environment. When the sun is up, power is abundant. When the sun goes down, we need to be more aware of our power use. APS has implied that people don’t use energy very well right now but it’s probably because the public hasn’t been well-enough educated about how.
Also, one of the biggest issues I keep hearing discussed at solar energy forums is this exact problem: how the peak of supply doesn’t match the peak of demand. All of these smart, engineering minds are working on this problem. They’re figuring out ways to utilize energy storage and diversifying their renewable sources to accommodate for these fluctuations.
Where do we go from here? I still have so many questions. Why THIS bill, right now and to be accomplished in such a short time span? What is really the huge interest in putting all our eggs in the Palo Verde nuclear basket? In Part 3, we’ll start looking at some of these peripheral subjects that have cropped up.