Solar Energy: A Bipartisan Issue

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Democratic Arizona Corporation Commissioner Paul Newman and Republican attorney Jordan Rose talk about why they believe solar energy is an issue both political parties should support.

Ted Simons: According to our next guests, politics should not stand in the way of growing the solar energy industry. Here to tell us why is Arizona Corporation Commissioner Paul Newman a Democrat, and Republican attorney Jordan Rose, managing partner of the Rose Law Group in Phoenix. Good to have you both here. Thanks for joining us.
Jordan Rose: Thank you.
Ted Simons: Solar energy benefits the environment. Agree?
Paul Newman: Absolutely.
Ted Simons: Because?
Paul Newman: Because it's a fuel we don't have to pay for. 15 It's a clean fuel, Arizona has it. It does remarkable things to keep climate change down and bad things that come from burning fossil fuels.
Ted Simons: Okay. Again, bad things have come from burning fossil fuels. If renewable energy, solar energy is good for the environment, those other things bad for the environment?
Jordan Rose: Look, Ted, I'm a conserve advertisement as a conservative I support solar energy because this is not, to me, about the environment. It's about my pocketbook, your pocketbook, it's about businesses. The utility of the future is frankly no utility at all. We're inching towards that right now. What I mean by that is that you and me, commissioner, our businesses, our schools, can all have solar panels on their roofs. And with the technology being developed right now, storage capacity so that when it's dark we can still obtain our energy. And that's real free market competition. Because I have a choice now. I can go to my phone book and find the utility that provides for me, and that's my own rooftop, that's the free market.
Ted Simons: What is government's role in developing the industry to get to that purer free market?
Jordan Rose: Well, look, the energy market, the history of the energy market is not free. In the United States we subsidized railroads. We built Rich railroads to get coal from coal producing states to the rest of the country to produce energy. If the nuclear industry wasn't supported by the federal government they wouldn't be able to ensure their plants. The energy market is not free. Look at the gulf oil spill. I'm a taxpayer, you're a taxpayer, we've paid for that. In this particular case I can see an end in sight. The end is total free market, and the utility as we know it today goes the way of the milkmen.
Ted Simons: Can you see an end in sight being a total free market?
Paul Newman: Well, we will have a debate about free market, whether we will have a free market in Arizona or not. Right now we have a regulated environment with the commission in charge of regulating the monopoly. There will be a debate probably this year on whether we go deregulation again. It happened 10 years ago. I wanted to point out a couple things from a recent study down by the Morrison institute for APS. I was involved in that as a commission to figure out how many Arizonans wanted to do solar energy in Arizona. It was a remarkable poll and it showed that 94% of Arizonans support solar. Not 84% wanted electricity from sources that will never be used up, 90% understand the cost of electricity can only increase. And that 90 Percent support a renewable energy standard. When you ask me what we can do as a commission, we support a renewable energy standard. We can support the people who this poll also shows that 20% of the people would pay 20% -- not 20% -- over 50% of the people would pay over 20% of their bill for a cleaner environment, for renewable energy. This is very, very important to know because as we develop not an unregulated system right now, because it's regulated, but we're trying to do what the people want. These findings are very, very significant from this report, because several years ago when I was running as a candidate for the solar team, we did a poll that showed that Republicans and Democrats agreed 75% of Republicans, 85% of Republicans, Democrats agreed that sorely was the way to go for Arizona. Now we're showing 94%. We're really showing this is the people's will. In the regulated environment as a commissioner, I think we should be doing everything we could to drive that decision.
Ted Simons: But not all republicans think incentives are fair, especially to one particular industry. In this case, solar energy. How do you respond to that?
Jordan Rose: This is Henry Ford meet the horse and buggy. I mean, it's boom. We're floating into a free market. The only way we can race towards that free market is to end the subsidies to all forms of energy, to end the regulation. We as conservatives talk constantly about deregulating the energy market. We put it in the programs of regulated utilities and how that could work. This is the ultimate choice, you and me having absolutely choice of where we go. The question that wasn't asked in that Morrison institute poll I think as a conservative could have been asked -- and I bet conservatives would affirm this for sure -- would you like to continue for the end is not in sight, continue to subsidize a monopoly industry that's been subsidize forever? Or would you like the possibility of a free market to be infused into your electrical providers?
Ted Simons: But can you -- we've had oil executives on the program. They are saying this is all great and there is a future for renewable energy and solar energy and the whole nine yards. But hydrocarbons are here, they are a richer energy mix. In order to get there, you're going to have to keep subsidizing what we're doing right now. Is that -- does that make sense to you?
Jordan Rose: It does for a short period of time. And the quicker we can develop the R&D that will allow solar and the storage capacity to be economical, the quicker all subsidization ends. I'm not suggesting today we drop it all, because that will leave our consumers in a real hurt. From a free market perspective, would I like to see that? Yes. The only way to visualize that in reality is to say every one of us will be our own electric utility.
Ted Simons: Let's visualize it even further. Can the land afford to have thousands of acres of wind tunnel or whatever those things are, those windmills and solar farms, which may take thousands upon thousands of acres? We're already seeing erosion on some of these lands. Are we prepared for that free market?
Paul Newman: Well, that's a good question. A lot of people ask me that question as a commissioner. Yes, I believe that there is -- are a lot of places that we can do solar. We have to limit the amount of water that's used. But usually these big solar plants are located on agricultural lands and actually you end up using less water on those agricultural lands that would have to raise alfalfa or cotton. People ask me, is it in Arizona's interests to grow solar in Arizona and export sole tore other states? I would say yes. Just I wanted to tell you, we spent only $150 million a year on this program that people support, 90% of the people support. We spend $3 billion a year on bringing energy in from other states, coal and natural gas. That's all price support. If we can just change that balance of trade -- I've tried make this point for several years now -- we could increase our investments.
Ted Simons: You've got about 30 seconds.
Jordan Rose: I'm talking about distributed solar generation, rooftop solar. That is the future, absolutely the future. I'll show you a stimulus 20 package, right? Put our real estate trade back to work in this state. People on rooftops, people installing, that's a good thing for Arizona.
Ted Simons: A good way to end the conversation. Good to have both of you here.
Paul Newman: Thank you very much.
Jordan Rose: Thank you very much.
Ted Simons: The latest news from the office of Arizona Attorney General Tom Horne and members of the "Ethel" string quartet tomorrow. That is it for now, I'm Ted Simons. Thank you so much for joining us. You have a great evening.

Paul Newman:Democratic Arizona Corporation Commissioner; Jordan Rose:Republican Attorney;

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