by Nick Brown (March 25, 2016) www.azcentral.com
Viewpoints: Salt River Project, the nation’s largest public electrical utility, only gets about 5 percent of its power from renewable sources. That’s not nearly enough.
Salt River Project has a rich history of providing dependable and affordable electricity to its ratepayers, which number nearly one million accounts and about two million people in metro Phoenix.
The nation’s largest public electrical utility, SRP’s electrical district ended 2014 with a $40 million surplus on just under $3 billion in revenues. Fiscal responsibility, high quality customer service, dependable electrical service and overall sound management are hallmarks of the utility.
Yet, SRP’s progress toward renewable energy deployment is poor. Only 5.7 percent of its power is generated by renewable energy sources, according to the utility’s own website. By comparison, 23.8 percent of PG&E’s power is from renewable sources, 21.6 percent of SoCal Ed’s, and 23 percent of Austin Energy’s. By capitalizing on Arizona’s abundant solar energy, SRP can become a leader in clean energy.
The district must become more innovative and more supportive of rooftop and utility-scale solar energy. Several policies and projects will result in a greener SRP, including:
Get rid of the rooftop solar tax
Roll back the E-27 rooftop solar tariff that has taken away the solar option for ratepayers and crippled the solar industry in the SRP service area. In February 2015, SRP implemented a demand charge for new solar customers that lacks a technical basis, and that drove 2,200 solar jobs out of Arizona last year.
This knee jerk reaction to the solar boom has turned out to be bad for SRP customers who want to use clean energy, bad for Arizona’s solar industry and awful for the state’s reputation among businesses that are looking for friendly places to locate innovative enterprises.
Developing SRP rate plans should be done through an even-handed, unhurried, transparent fact finding process that considers multiple studies, expert opinions and public input.
These things didn’t happen last year, and unlike rate making processes of the Arizona Corporation Commission, SRP’s deliberations rarely include any of these features.
SRP decisions should include these ideas:
Develop a pricing plan that incentivizes solar rooftops to face west
Solarize select areas of the canals
Build solar farms at Apache Lake and Canyon Lake
Couple demand reduction with solar energy
Develop a microgrid project
Develop thermal energy systems in commercial centers
SRP will continue to develop and purchase energy from regional wind farms, solar farms, hydroelectric facilities, biomass plants, and geothermal plants. It will continue to subsidize energy audits, LED lighting, home insulation and time-of-day use plans.
Continued success of these programs, in conjunction with initiatives such as those outlined above, will maintain the financial strength of the SRP Electric District, reduce exposure to fuel price increases, reduce SRP’s greenhouse gas emissions, provide cleaner air and water for Arizona, and provide ratepayers and our grandchildren the lowest cost electricity over the long term.
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