As Arizonans know, on a daily basis, more and more of us are turning on our computers, charging our cell phones and powering our iPods. Coupled with traditional energy uses such as watching TV, washing clothes and running the refrigerator, the oven and the dishwasher, the list of what we use electricity for continues to grow.
Arizona is likely to start booming again as the economy turns around, which will contribute to even greater energy needs. The consequences of continuing down the current road of coal and nuclear include increased air pollution, escalating asthma rates, and higher and unpredictable electric bills.
I recently had the opportunity to participate in the workshops conducted by the Salt River Project (SRP) to discuss the overall direction of their energy plan and in particular revisit their Sustainable Portfolio Program. SRP staff, including management, should be applauded for their efforts to provide applicable background information, offer attendees the ability to ask questions of relevant staff, and ensure meaningful customer and stakeholder participation throughout the process.
While the Arizona PIRG Education Fund is pleased that SRP staff is recommending to their board the utility should increase its commitment to clean energy, in order to be truly effective SRP needs to enact the following:
1. Redefine "sustainable" to only include truly "sustainable" resources. SRP should adopt the definition of "renewable energy" adopted by the Arizona Corporation Commission in its Renewable Energy Standard and vetted through a stakeholder process. Under no circumstances should natural gas or nuclear power be considered a "sustainable" resource.
2. Set strong separate standards for energy efficiency (at least 20 percent by 2020) and renewable energy (at least 15 percent by 2025). Separate standards would require specific planning and concrete evaluations for energy efficiency and renewable energy programs.
3. Lead efforts for strong building codes. By using their influence, SRP can help ensure Arizona homes and businesses are built right the first time saving money and preventing the building of unnecessary power plants.
The SRP Board of Directors is accepting comments on its Sustainable Portfolio Program, such as those above, through May 9. The board is expected to vote on revisions to the program at its meeting on May 23. More information, including the opportunity to file comments online and attend the meeting, can be found at www.srpnet.com/spp.
Please take a minute and encourage SRP to ramp up its commitment to clean energy. By doing so, SRP will join with the other major utilities in Arizona to further reduce air pollution, reduce adverse public health impacts and reduce costs to consumers.
• Diane E. Brown is executive director of the Arizona PIRG Education Fund, which conducts research and education on public interest issues. More information can be found at www.arizonapirg.org.