Arizona has long been known for its endless sunny days and hot weather. Now it’s putting its sizzling climate to work. The Grand Canyon state’s bold renewable energy standard has made Arizona a national leader in generating renewable energy and promoting environmental sustainability.
In 2006, Arizona’s Corporation Committee approved the Renewable Energy Standard and Tariff (REST) requiring all utilities to source 15 percent of their energy from renewable sources by 2025. Since going into effect REST has had a major impact on the state’s solar power industry. With a $12.5 million investment in solar energy, Arizona is currently third in the country in solar panel installation and receives 6.6 percent of its energy from solar.
The economic and environmental benefits the state has reaped from the raised standards are also being witnessed across the board. According to a report developed by the sustainability nonprofit Ceres and Berkley and environmentally focused Strategen Consulting, the standards set in 2006 have created thousands of jobs, lowered particulate emissions, and resulted in cleaner air and water for the state. Arizona Public Service Co., the largest electric utility in Arizona, saw a drop of $787 million in costs for its consumers between 2008 and 2018 as well as health-related benefits from reduced emissions at about $185 million. Consumers of Tucson Electric Power saved $235 million during that same span with close to $61 million in health-related benefits.
The investment in solar energy has created 571 solar companies statewide leading to 7,500 jobs as of 2018. Green industries employ 13.8 percent of Arizona’s workers and about 39,500 Arizona residents work in jobs related to energy efficiency. A large share of Arizona’s energy efficiency sector of the economy is comprised of small businesses with more than 80percent of businesses in the energy efficiency industry report having between one and five employees.
While RESTwas initially implemented to test hypotheses about the benefits of renewable energy standards, the numbers now speak for themselves. REST has helped create jobs, grow the state’s economy and delivered wide-ranging health, economic, and environmental benefits to Arizonans. Due in large part to the success of REST, the Arizona Corporation Committee is now expected to seriously consider overhauling and upgrading the standards in the months ahead.