by Will Greene
Almost exactly one year ago Bob Stump was giving his first speech as Arizona Corporation Commission chair stating that “the days of cheerleading for one energy source over another are over”, new Commissioners Susan Bitter Smith and Bob Burns were taking their oaths, and the Commission seemed ready to tap the breaks on what had previously been a steady charge into global solar energy leadership.
Despite a Renewable Energy Standard (RES) set at roughly half that of surrounding states, we learned in the early days of 2013 that Arizona was now America’s “number one” solar state in terms of solar energy per capita – an incredible accomplishment. More energy dollars than ever before were staying here at home, putting almost 10,000 Arizona-based construction workers, electricians, and developers on the job, while making gains in cleaning up Arizona’s air and addressing greenhouse gas pollution.
The bi-partisan commitment to making Arizona a solar capital was paying dividends not only in keeping energy dollars in-state (rather than sent out-of-state to import fossil fuels), but competition and economies of scale were driving solar panel prices to record lows – a validation of the Commission’s incentive policy.
In spite of this validation, 2013 presented threat-after-threat to Arizona’s solar future. When the Commission could have stayed-the-course, it often opted to entertain the whims of utility executives bent on squashing their largest long-term threat: energy in the hands of the people in the form of local, pollution-free rooftop solar. Here’s my report card for our five, state-wide elected Corporation Commissioners in 2013.