Koch Brothers backed group, climate denier join APS’s anti-clean energy campaign

In this post Energy and Policy Institute’s Matt Kaspar reveals how the Koch Brothers-backed Americans for Prosperity and Heartland Institute Climate Denier James Taylor have joined the effort to fight a 50% renewable energy mandate for Arizona.

 

Before Arizona voters head to their polling place in November, they will receive the Secretary of State’s publicity pamphlet that includes information about the statewide initiatives that will appear on the ballot. The booklet will also include arguments for and against ballot measures that were submitted by individuals, politicians, and groups who either paid $75 to have their comments in the pamphlet, or had their comments sponsored by an organization. Joining the dozens of filers that submitted arguments against the Clean Energy Healthy Arizona ballot, which would require Arizona utilities to use more renewable energy, are Andrew Clark, the state director for the Koch Brothers’ Americans For Prosperity Arizona chapter, and James Taylor of the Heartland Institute, a think tank that has been at the forefront of denying the scientific evidence for man-made climate change and routinely attacks clean energy.

Perhaps best known for its ill-conceived 2012 billboard campaign that compared those concerned about global warming with the Unabomber and Osama Bin Laden, the Heartland Institute also hosts conferences where attendees deny climate sciencepromote fossil fuels, and attack environmental regulations and renewable energy policies. Taylor, a senior fellow for Heartland, is also president of The Spark of Freedom Foundation, a pro-fracking and pro-nuclear organization.

Americans for Prosperity is the political advocacy group founded and funded by the billionaire brothers Charles and David Koch, the owners of Koch Industries. AFP works in sync with other organizations funded by the Kochs or allied with their interests to advocate against policies that would protect the environment and combat climate change. Together, Heartland and AFP state chapters and the national organization have specifically targeted the Clean Power Plan and state renewable energy standards. The Clean Energy for a Healthy Arizona ballot seeks to increase the state’s current renewable energy standard of 15% by 2025 to 50% by 2030 – so it is no surprise that Taylor and Clark have joined with Arizona Public Service in attacking the effort.

Voters will receive the voting booklets in early October; they can currently read an online version on the Secretary of State’s website.

 

APS’ network of politicians and organizations also join voter pamphlet

In addition to the Heartland Institute and Americans for Prosperity figures, dozens of lawmakers and organizations also filed arguments against the initiative; many of them have received significant funding from APS throughout their career.

Source: Arizona Secretary of State Campaign Finance Database for state contributions; Center for Responsive Politics for federal contributions. Spreadsheet of contributionsEnergy and Policy Institute

The fourteen Arizona state legislative and federal politicians that submitted arguments against the Clean Energy Healthy Arizona ballot have received a total of $166,918 in state and federal campaign contributions throughout their careers from the political action committee of Pinnacle West, the parent company of APS. Reps. Biggs, Gosar and Lesko have further collected a total of $54,650 in federal campaign contributions from APS individuals, according to the Center for Responsive Politics.

Several of these lawmakers have recently worked to undermine Clean Energy Healthy Arizona this year.

Sen. Kavanagh sponsored a rival ballot initiative to compete with the Clean Energy for a Healthy Arizona ballot initiative, which critics called an effort to confuse voters. That effort did not make it out of the legislature. An APS spokeswoman said the utility had proposed the language.

Rep. Leach introduced legislation, which was signed by Governor Ducey, that will limit financial penalties for utilities who fail to meet renewable energy standards if voters decide to increase them in November. APS admitted it helped craft this legislation as well.

Rep. César Chávez and Sen. Robert Meza co-authored an op-ed against the ballot initiative earlier this year. Furthermore, Sen. Meza has received income from some non-profit organizations that have received funding or have board relationships with APS. Energy and Policy Institute reported in April that he had received pay from Chicanos Por La Causa, The Armory and PSA Behavioral Health Agency – all of which have ties to APS.

Others have helped APS in other ways throughout their careers. For example, in 2016, as a state senator, Debbie Lesko worked with APS to create a ballot measure to compete with a pro-solar ballot measure sponsored by former Arizona Corporation Commissioner Chairwoman Kris Mayes. Six years before that, Lesko tried to pass a bill that would have classified nuclear power as renewable – essentially gutting the state’s renewable energy standard.

Along with the politicians featured in the pamphlet, many of the organizations that submitted arguments against the initiative have a relationship with APS either as a recipient of the utility’s cash or by having an APS executive on the board.

Additionally, Kimberly Wold, executive director of Prosper, submitted an argument against the ballot. In 2013, APS admitted – after first denying – that it funneled money through a consulting firm to Prosper, which then funded ads to attack solar energy. APS spent $9 million on public relations efforts to fight rooftop solar during that year.

Many of the arguments in the pamphlet are sponsored by Arizonans for Affordable Electricity, which is the political action committee set up by APS to specifically fight the clean energy ballot. At the end of June 30, Pinnacle West had contributed a total of $7,536,300 to Arizonans for Affordable Electricity.

 

Matt Kaspar is the Research Director at the Energy & Policy Institute. He focuses on defending policies that further the development of clean energy sources. He also frequently focuses on the companies and their front groups that obstruct policy solutions to global warming. 

This article was originally published on the Energy and Policy Institute blog,

Arizona renewable energy referendum meets signature requirement

Clean Energy for a Healthy Arizona’s (CEHA) embattled initiative to impose a 50% by 2030 renewable energy mandate has passed another one of the hurdles standing between it and it’s place on the November ballot.

On Wednesday, the office of Arizona Secretary of State Michelle Reagan released the results of the office’s random 5 percent sample of signatures. The review found that over 70% of the signatures reviewed were valid, representing 16,146 of the 22,722 collected. Though the results of Yuma County have not yet been reported, the bill has reached the mathematical requirement to move on.

Furthermore, with the exceptions of Apache, Maricopa and Mohave counties, no county fell below 75% validity, which is funny, considering the utility front group challenging the signatures’ validity, Arizonans for Affordable Electricity (AAE), claimed that same 75% to be the amount of fraudulent signatures.

An important distinction to be made here is that invalid does not mean fraudulent. Invalid signatures could very well just be incomplete or ones that were filled out improperly.

These allegations will still see their day in court, as the two sides will meet before Judge Daniel Kiley on Monday, per AAE’s original lawsuit. With this ballot verification, it would be surprising if CEHA were to lose the case.

The lawsuit should be the final hurdle standing between the renewable energy initiative and the November ballot. Speaking of hurdles, AAE has put so many in front of the initiative previously, that it may qualify for the Olympics, too. The group has previously alleged that CEHA’s signature collection fleet was comprised of violent criminals and at least one Russian spy. AEE has utilized Twitter as an outlet, painting the main backer of CEHA, Tom Steyer, as a “California billionaire” solely hell-bent on raising the taxes of Arizona citizens, with their #StayOutSteyer campaign.

The other pending renewable energy proposal, Commissioner Andy Tobin of the Arizona Corporation Commission’s 80% “clean energy” by 2050 goal, has not received nearly the opposition from AAE that CEHA has. Before going into why, it’s important to remember where AAE gets a significant portion of their funding from.

So why would Arizona Public Service prefer one renewable energy effort over another? Well, for starters, we at pv magazine are not clear that Commissioner Tobin’s proposal is a mandate; as the documentation repeatedly refers to the clean energy targets as “goals”, and does not specify any structure for penalties (such as alternative compliance payments in renewable portfolio standard policies) for not reaching these goals. This could means that unlike the mandatory language of the 50% by 2030 initiative and other renewable portfolio standard policies, utilities would not necessarily any mechanism holding them accountable should they fall behind in their transition to clean energy.

The CEHA initiative also calls for 10% of the total 50% renewable energy to be generated from distributed energy resources. Like other utilities APS has long treated distributed, customer- and third-party owned solar as a threat to its business model and revenues. Commissioner Tobin’s plan also includes nuclear power generation under the blanket of clean energy, while CEHA’s RPS does not. This means under Tobin’s proposal the 3.3 GW Palo Verde nuclear power plant, partially owned by APS and the largest in the nation, would receive incentives based on its output. Under the 50% by 2030 proposal it would not.

The tactics that have been used to fight CEHA’s RPS initiative come as no surprise, since Arizona and the Arizona Corporation Commission are known for having incredibly dirty politics. In this case, there is hope. If the RPS initiative survives its court date, it will head to the ballot, putting the future of Arizona Energy in the hands of the voters. And here it is worth note that the 480,464 signatures the initiative collected represent 7% of the state’s overall population.

 

This article was originally published on 

 

Arizona Utility APS’s Real Plan: Fossil Fuels Forever

Arizona’s biggest investor-owned electric utility, Arizona Public Service (APS), wants to lock the state into a fossil-fuel-based future, even though there is a clean, reliable energy option that would lower electric bills, reduce health-harming emissions, and create thousands of jobs. APS is vociferously opposing the Clean Energy for a Healthy Arizona ballot measure, which would require utilities to get 50 percent of their electricity from renewable sources like solar and wind by 2030. The likely reason: APS wants to build a bunch of new gas-fired power plants, and they will make less money in a world where the ballot measure passes and their dirty-energy-building-boom no longer makes sense.

We know APS’s plans because they filed a detailed proposal — called an Integrated Resource Plan (IRP) — at the Arizona Corporation Commission last year. In the IRP process, Arizona utilities map out how they will meet customers’ electricity needs over the next 15 years.

APS proposed no new large-scale solar plants in its plan. This is shocking. The plan covers the next fifteen years, Arizona generates just six percent of its electricity from solar, and solar costs so little in Arizona. Instead of building renewables, the utility proposed a massive, multi-billion-dollar build-out of fossil fuel-fired power plants: 2,000 Megawatts of gas combined cycle units (which are designed to operate around-the-clock), and 3,500 Megawatts of gas combustion turbine units (which are designed to meet peak needs). This building boom would increase gas-fired power plant capacity substantially, from 57 percent of total capacity today to 66 percent in 2032, and substantially increase APS’s use of fossil fuels. Use of coal and gas for energy production would increase by 40 percent between 2017 and 2032.

APS wants to meet Arizona’s future electricity needs almost exclusively with fossil fuels

In the plan, gas-fired resources account for 99.7 percent of APS’s new electricity generation, and large-scale solar is absent. The utility does not plan to build any new utility-scale renewable energy power plants (there’s just one, small wind contract extension). APS’s plan also cuts energy efficiency programs in half, and they propose just a small amount of energy storage.

In contrast to APS’s “fossil fuels forever” plan, a 50 percent renewable energy future can meet Arizona’s electricity needs at lower cost and risk than APS’s plan, with big environmental benefits. Modelling of a renewable energy future conducted by the research firm ICF for NRDC finds that 50 percent of the state’s electricity needs can be reliably met by renewable energy by 2030. A 50 percent renewable portfolio standard would lead to the development of 5,320 Megawatts of solar capacity by 2030.

Building those new solar power plants would create jobs, and take away the need for any new gas plants and the out-of-state fuel they require. Our modeling — described here — suggests the renewable energy future would reduce energy infrastructure costs by $4.1 billion between 2020 and 2040 and reduce energy bills, because new renewables are cheaper than unneeded gas plants.

APS spends a lot of time talking about the Palo Verde Nuclear Generating Station. But they are just trying to confuse people. Their real plan is all fossil fuels, all the time. A renewable energy future would be better for Arizona’s economy and environment.

Originally posted on the Natural Resources Defense Council website. 

APS spends $11 million, can’t keep renewable initiative off the ballot

For those who work in the renewable energy industry here in Arizona you’re probably smiling ear to ear when reading this headline. It’s astonishing really because Arizona Public Service (APS) has continually worked to try to diminish the value proposition of roof top solar here in the state. They are not alone as a utility. Salt River Project (SRP) has more or less done the same thing. In 2015 SRP approved rate hikes and demand fees for residential roof top solar. That effectively dropped new solar applications 90% over night. SRP isn’t under the Arizona Corporation Commissions (ACC) regulation. It’s governed by a board of directors that makes independent decisions about how rate plans, billing mechanisms, net metering policies etc. That board of directors is slowly but surely changing as more “renewable energy friendly” board members are being voted in to replace the old crowd.

solar

It’s very possible we can see another change on the horizon. It’s where the voting citizens of Arizona can actually have their “will” fulfilled by holding our public institutions accountable for the health of our environment and community.  That said, it’s we are no way out of the water yet!  APS is fighting this ballot initiative tooth and nail. Earlier today, AZ Central reported that Arizonans for Affordable Electricity, a political action committee whose funding comes from Arizona Public Service Co. parent company Pinnacle West Capital Corp., claim proponents of the clean energy plan did not gather enough valid signatures to qualify for the ballot.  To top it off they are now suing to keep this initiative off the ballot. This means that we, who believe in sustainability and a new economy for tomorrow need to stay vigilant.  We must continue to support the fight for higher levels of sustainability and renewable energy in Arizona.

Call us today at 480.636.0321 to learn how to lower your annual electricity operating costs with solar for your business.