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At a news conference today, the Arizona PIRG Education Fund released a new report entitled "Renewing Arizona's Economy: The Clean Energy Path to Jobs and Economic Growth". The report documents the economic development potential of renewable energy (such as solar and wind power) in Arizona, focusing on how investing in renewable energy will lead to jobs and increased economic output. In addition, the report examines how renewable energy can save water and improve public health. The report comes as the Arizona Corporation Commission is considering an increase to the state's Environmental Portfolio Standard.
"Investing in a clean, renewable energy supply is a smart bet for Arizona," said Diane E. Brown, Executive Director for the Arizona PIRG Education Fund. "By developing home-grown and sustainable resources, Arizona would keep more energy dollars here in the state, generating thousands of new high-paying jobs, boosting Arizona's economy, conserving scarce water supplies and improving public health."
According to "Renewing Arizona's Economy," adopting a renewable energy standard to increase electricity generation from clean and renewable energy sources like solar and wind power would have a variety of benefits compared to business as usual. Specifically, the report examines the impact of developing enough renewable energy to supply 10 percent of total electricity consumption by 2015 and 20 percent by 2020.
Between 2005 and 2020, investing in renewable energy would:
- Create jobs, increasing net employment by an annual average of 380 jobs per year, for a total of 6,100 person-years by 2020;
- Increase wages by a net annual average of $66 million, with a total net present value of $570 million;
- Increase the gross state product by a net annual average of $200 million, with a net present value of $1.6 billion;
- Help rural areas, directly generating over $600 million in property taxes to fund education and other local government services;
- Save water, conserving a total of 23 billion gallons; and
- Reduce pollution; in the year 2020 annually avoiding emissions of:
- More than 11,000 tons of smog-forming nitrogen oxide (the equivalent of taking over 500,000 cars off the road);
- More than 9,000 tons of soot-forming sulfur dioxide (13 percent of 2000 emissions from electricity generation); and
- 8 million tons of global-warming inducing carbon dioxide (the equivalent of taking 1.5 million cars off the road).
According to former U.S. Congressman Matt Salmon who is Chairman of the National Advisory Board of Americans for Solar Power, "The Arizona PIRG Education Fund report makes clear that solar is by far Arizona's most abundant clean energy resource. It is also the most valuable in that it provides electricity on peak when it is most expensive and most needed. Solar electricity is most cost effective when sited on the customer side of the meter. To stimulate the retail solar market, and provide consumers with a real choice as to how they generate a portion of their electrons, the Environmental Portfolio Standard must include a section devoted to developing a sustainable distributed solar market. Specifically, the program must guarantee homeowners, small businesses and other commercial enterprises the ability to easily and cheaply connect to the grid as well as an incentive designed to make solar electricity systems economically attractive purchase options for electricity consumers and homebuilders."
Wind energy resources are located in our rural areas. Kevin Rogers, Arizona Farm Bureau President stated, "Farmers and ranchers see renewable energy as a way by which they can supplement their farming and ranching operations in light of probable cuts to the farm program. Farmers are America's original environmentalists and we hope this report gives legs to increased renewable energy in Arizona. Solar and wind power are a perfect fit for ranchers."
According to the report, state policy can accelerate the penetration of renewable energy into the electricity market, encouraging investment in the manufacturing, installation, servicing, and financing of solar technology and wind turbines. Currently, the state exports over half of its energy dollars to purchase fuel like natural gas from out of state. In contrast, renewable energy dollars stay closer to home where they can have a greater impact on the state economy.
David Maurer, CEO of the Prescott Chamber of Commerce, said that "renewable energy industries are highly desirable because they're clean industries with good-paying jobs--something every community would love to have."
According to Valerie Rauluk, Chair of the Tucson-Pima Metropolitan Energy Commission and the Director of the Greater Tucson Coalition for Solar Energy, "Since 1997, the Greater Tucson Coalition for Solar Energy has sought to strengthen and expand the solar energy industry in the Tucson region. We have over 120 solar jobs and a $7 million local income impact. With the more aggressive investment in renewable energy that the Arizona PIRG Education Fund is recommending, especially community based systems, we can expand that significantly, while sustaining the quality of our air, water and landscape, and greatly enhancing our security."
"The Inter Tribal Council of Arizona concurs that now is the time to seek opportunities for state and tribal officials as well as the private sector to work together towards addressing Arizona's energy needs in a way that benefits local, regional as well as tribal economies. Producing more energy from renewable sources available in Arizona including solar, wind and other new clean technologies will alleviate air pollution production problems and will support a healthier environment," said Dave Castillo with the Inter Tribal Council of Arizona.
Brown concluded, "Renewable energy means more jobs, more wages, more economic output, and more energy dollars flowing in state. Renewable energy also means less pollution and less adverse public health impacts."
To more fully capture the benefits of renewable energy, the Arizona PIRG Education Fund urged Arizona officials to adopt an accelerated energy standard. Specifically the group urged the Arizona Corporation Commission to choose a solid path to clean, renewable energy, such as solar and wind power and increase the state's Environmental Portfolio Standard to 10 percent by 2010 and 20 percent by 2020.
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