MEC expresses opposition to Prop 127
BULLHEAD CITY — Mohave Electric Cooperative is taking a stand against Proposition 127 and asking its members to vote against the ballot initiative.
“We support renewable energy as one of our wholesale purchased power resources when it is cost effective and does not adversely affect reliability,” said Tyler Carlson, MEC chief executive officer. “However, a binding mandate to produce 50 percent of the electricity for our members through renewable sources by 2030 is both costly and unnecessary. If passed, this proposition will become a burden on all of Arizona’s rural communities with rate increases of about 40 percent. To establish the necessary infrastructure in less than 12 years is problematic.”
Proposition 127 seeks to increase the state’s renewable portfolio standards, requiring electric utilities acquire a minimum amount of electricity from renewable energy sources. Existing standards set by the Arizona Corporation Commission, which regulates utilities, require 15 percent of electricity come from renewable energy sources by 2025. Prop. 127 would amend the state constitution to require electric utilities to increase renewable energy sources to 50 percent by 2030.
A town hall on the issue is scheduled at 5:30 p.m. today at Suddenlink Community Center, presented by the Grand Canyon Electric Cooperative Association.
“Having evolving energy policy locked into constitutional change is also problematic as it is impossible to make adjustments for technology changes and negative economic circumstances,” Carlson said. “There is no need for a mandate from our perspective. Mohave Electric Cooperative already purchases more than 15 percent of its wholesale power from renewable resources without a mandate. Mandates such as this put the utility in a difficult position to negotiate the best deals and allows suppliers and developers to leverage the utilities at members’ detriment.
“If MEC is forced to comply we will not be able to make the best business decisions for MEC and our members,” Carlson continued.
Clean Energy for a Healthy Arizona backs the ballot measure.
“The claim that Proposition 127 is going to increase or as is claimed, massively increase, rates is almost just patently silly on its face,” said DJ Quinlan, Clean Energy for a Healthy Arizona spokesman. “Here’s a simple fact; renewable energy in Arizona is cheaper than gas and coal, period.”
Quinlan pointed to a Bloomberg NEF report released Monday, which said that solar projects that incorporate battery storage are becoming cheaper to build per megawatt-hour in parts of the U.S. Southwest than new gas-fired generation.
The report used the example of a 100-megawatt solar farm that goes into service in Arizona in 2021, which, when coupled with a 25-megawatt storage system with four hours of capacity, would be able to provide power for $36 per megawatt hour, well below the $47 price from a new combined-cycle gas plant.
“We’re really strategically placed on the globe to take advantage of solar electricity,” Quinlan said. “Undoubtedly if we pass Proposition 127 Arizona will have to go into building some new infrastructure and surely that costs money — nobody’s denying that. But here’s the little thing we often don’t think about: It’s estimated that by 2026, Arizona is going to need 50 percent more energy production than we have today anyway.”
Quinlan also points to a study commissioned by the Natural Resources Defense Council, using energy firm ICS, to model the Western energy grid which reported Proposition 127 will save Arizona $4.1 billion in overall energy generation costs between 2020 and 2040 and create thousands of jobs.
“We only get 6 percent of our total electricity from solar and I think everybody who is here realizes that’s not nearly enough,” Quinlan said. “We respect that these cooperatives are looking out for the interests of their customers, however we respectfully disagree that this is going to raise costs; we’re quite adamant that in the long run Prop. 127 will lower costs and certainly is going to be adding jobs.”
Arizona ranks third in the nation in solar use, according to the Solar Energy Industries Association. More than 302 solar companies — including 34 manufacturers — provide nearly 8,400 jobs.
“Nationwide, solar jobs are increasing at nine times the rate of the economy,” Quinlan said. “Here in Arizona we’ve actually lost solar jobs because of the policies of companies like APS who have essentially launched a war on rooftop solar.”
Arizona Public Service is Arizona’s largest electric utility.
Last week, the campaign accused Attorney General Mark Brnovich of manipulating the ballot measure’s wording in favor of APS, after emails, obtained through a public records request, included some language an election official characterized as “eyebrow-raising.”
Associated Press reported the Aug. 29 emails show an acting division chief in the attorney general’s office sent over several proposed changes to the ballot summary to the secretary of state’s office. Among the proposed changes was the addition of the phrase “irrespective of cost to consumers.”
“Here’s what’s so dishonest about what they do,” Quinlan said. “It’s this group Arizonans for Affordable Electricity. That language is literally the star of their television commercials, highlighted on the screen — it says, ‘Don’t take our word for it read the language on the ballot yourself.’ They’re trying to leave the impression that’s language that we put in there, that we don’t care. The fact is the ACC always has to consider costs in everything they do, they have that mandate.”
Quinlan said he hopes voters are able to see past the “election shenanigans.”
“I hope that voters are able to see through this problem and ultimately know that Proposition 127 will lead to cleaner and healthier energy production in Arizona, it will lead to more solar, it will lead to more jobs and we believe it will lead to lower costs,” he said.