What started out as my simple intent to clarify Arizona’s Prop 127 has spiraled into a rabbit hole of research and complexity. I’m going to try to tackle it all and lay it out simply for people, like me, who aren’t immersed in the utility industry or who get that glazed look anytime sometime starts talking politics and constitutional amendments. This is the first in a series of posts about Prop 127, looking at it from several angles. I hope you’ll join me on this sordid adventure into Arizona’s potential future, the complexity of the power grid, dark money, politics, technology, innovation, shifting household behaviors, cleaning our air and so much more.
Part 1: The Bare Bones of it all
Forget the billionaire, NexGen America behind the proposition. Forget that APS contributes dark money to who-knows-where to get who-knows-who elected. All of that aside: why should you be for or against Arizona’s Prop 127?
What is Prop 127 NOT about?
It’s not really about whether solar energy is good for us in the future (it is). It isn’t really about whether we think APS is an evil corporation (can’t really say but they actually do a lot of good with solar). It’s not even about jobs being lost or rates being increased (jobs change, the industry changes, and APS rates go up already…in fact, they just did and we’ll talk more about that later.) It’s actually not even about solar.
What IS Prop 127 about?
Prop 127 is about making a real and substantial commitment to shifting how Arizona buys and generates its electricity to plan for a future that will soon no longer have coal and oil as its cheapest energy source. Whether you are a zero-waste, off-grid environmentalist or a climate change denier, there is still a finite supply of coal and oil in the world. Production efforts grow ever-more complicated and costly, while renewable energy and solar energy technologies continue to improve and become cheaper. The fact that this proposition is even on the November ballot means that it matters enough to enough Arizonans to bring it to a vote.
What, exactly, does Prop 127 DO?
“As of 2018, Arizona’s Renewable Portfolio Standard (RPS) is 15 percent by 2025. Proposition 127 would increase the RPS each year until reaching 50 percent in 2030. The initiative would define renewable energy to include sources such as solar, wind, biomass, certain hydropower, geothermal, and landfill gas energies.”
– Prop 127
This means that Arizona utilities will have to increase the percentage of electricity they receive from renewable resources. Right now, Arizona receives a lot of our energy from coal-fueled power plants, natural gas and nuclear energy (Palo Verde). In the proposition, this is specifically defined with percentage goals for upcoming years.
(A) IN 2020 NOT LESS THAN 12%
(B) IN 2021 NOT LESS THAN 14%
(C) IN 2022 NOT LESS THAN 16%
(D) IN 2023 NOT LESS THAN 20%
(E) IN 2024 NOT LESS THAN 24%
(F) IN 2025 NOT LESS THAN 28%
(G) IN 2026 NOT LESS THAN 32%
(H) IN 2027 NOT LESS THAN 36%
(I) IN 2028 NOT LESS THAN 40%
(J) IN 2029 NOT LESS THAN 45%
(K) 2030 AND EACH YEAR THEREAFTER NOT LESS THAN 50%
It’s not just about solar
Even though every sign, ad and discussion around Prop 127 circles around solar energy, it isn’t what the proposition actually says. Many forms of renewable energy are named, including: biogas, wind generators, landfill gas, existing hydropower, fuel cells and geothermal. Distributed renewable energy resources is likely the one everyone is stuck on. This would be residential rooftop solar or in non-everyday people talk: DER.
Next up in Part 2: Looking at arguments against
Now that we know what Prop 127 actually says, what are the arguments against it? Most of these arguments have originated with Arizona’s main utility provider, APS. In my next post, I’ll look at several of the arguments against Prop 127 and how they might be answered.