New plan aims to make Arizona a national leader in clean energy


TED SIMONS: A NEW PLAN BY STATE CORPORATION COMMISSIONER AIMS TO MAKE ARIZONA A NATIONAL LEADER IN CLEAN ENERGY. WITH IMPROVEMENTS IN BATTERY STORAGE AND THE USE OF BIOMASS FUELS AND NUCLEAR ENERGY INCLUDED IN THE PLAN. JOINING US NOW IS THE AUTHOR OF THE PLAN, CORPORATION COMMISSIONER ANDY TOBIN. GOOD TO SEE YOU AGAIN

TED SIMONS: ENERGY MODERNIZATION PLAN. WHAT ARE WE TALKING ABOUT HERE?

ANDY TOBIN: WHAT WE GOT IS ABOUT A YEAR AND A HALF WORK OF 14 DIFFERENT DOCKETS OF STUDY, SO IT’S NOT JUST MY PLAN IT’S EVERYONE OF MY FELLOW COMMISSIONERS IN SOME HOW OR ANOTHER INVOLVED IN THIS. WHETHER IT BE THE BIOMASS SIDE OR THE CAR ENGINE, OR THE CHARGING STATIONS OR WHAT HAVE YOU. REALLY THE GOVERNOR HAS BEEN TALKING ABOUT HOW DO WE MOVE ARIZONA FORWARD WITH OUR TECHNOLOGIES. AND HE’S CALLED FOR CHARGING STATIONS. WE GOT ELECTRIC TRUCKS COMING, WE GOT ELECTRIC VEHICLES COMING. THESE ARE ALL PART OF ARIZONA, BUT WHAT WE’RE MISSING IS SOME FINAL PIECES THAT WE’VE BEEN WORKING ON AND ONE OF THOSE IS WHAT HAPPENS DURING OUR PEAK TIMES. OUR SUMMERS. WHEN IT’S THE HOTTEST AND OUR ENERGY IS THE MOST EXPENSIVE. THE THOUGHT IS HOW DO WE SOLVE THAT PROBLEM AND THEN OUR FORESTS KEEP BURNING.

TED SIMONS: THE PUSH FOR MORE BATTERIES STORAGE. OBVIOUSLY THERE ARE PEAK TIMES, YOU WANT TO STORE WHEN THE SUN IS OUT TO USE WHEN THE SUN IS GONE. HOW DO YOU CHANGE? HOW DO YOU IMPROVE?

ANDY TOBIN: SO THE WAY WE DO THAT IS YOU TAKE POWER AT TIMES OF THE DAY THAT YOU ARE NOT USING IT WHEN YOU AND I ARE AT WORK. WE CAN ABSORB THE POWER AND PUT IT AWAY SO WHEN WE COME HOME AT NIGHT IT'S IN A BATTERY THAT WE PAID A LOWER COST FOR HAVING. IT SEEMS SIMPLE ENOUGH, DOESN’T IT? BUT IT'S TAKING A LONG TIME FOR THE TECHNOLOGY TO CATCH UP.

TED SIMONS: IS IT CATCHING UP?

ANDY TOBIN: IT IS. IN FACT TWO DAYS AGO APS CAME OUT WITH A 6O MEGA WATT BATTERY SOLAR STORAGE FACILITY. THAT'S THE START OF WHERE THE NEXT LEVEL OF OUR ENERGY HISTORY IN ARIZONA IS GOING. IT'S GOING MORE TOWARD BATTERY, MORE TOWARD RENEWABLE, LESS TOWARD CARBONS, MORE TOWARD HIGH TECHNOLOGY. THAT'S THE BEGINNING OF THE FOOTPRINT. TEP, TUSCON ELECTRIC POWER, IS ALREADY WORKING ON 2,000 MEGA WATT PUMP STORAGE, WHICH IS WATER THAT COMES INTO THE CANYON AND BACK UP AT NIGHT. WE ARE CREATING POWER THAT'S CLEAN, AND POWER THAT'S STORED.

TED SIMONS: ANOTHER ASPECT THAT YOU’RE TALKING ABOUT AND WE REFERRED TO IN THE INTRO WAS BIOMASS FUEL. I FIND THIS FASCINATING BECAUSE THE FOUR FOREST THING JUST SEEMS LIKE IT CAN'T GET STARTED. YOU CAN’T GET THAT UNDERBRUSH THAT NO ONE SEEMS TO WANT. IS THIS SOMETHING THAT SOMEONE WOULD SEEM TO WANT?

ANDY TOBIN: WE THINK THAT WE GOT A BIG WINNER HERE. I JUST TALKED TO SENATOR MCCAIN YESTERDAY, I WAS IN WASHINGTON, I MET WITH SENATOR FLAKE AS WELL. THIS BIOMASS THING IS SOMETHING BOTH OF THEM HAVE BEEN WORKING ON AS WELL AS WELL AS FOUR FRY. FOUR FRY NEEDS ONE MORE PIECE TO IT. IT NEEDS AN AMENDMENT TO EXTEND THE 10 YEAR TO A 20 YEAR CONTRACT. THAT MAY ACTUALLY HAPPEN IN MARCH. THIS IS A DEMAND, THIS IS WHERE WE TELL OUR UTILITIES IN ARIZONA, AND REMEMBER I DON’T REGULATE SRP, SO WE LEFT A NICE LITTLE HOLE FOR THEM TO JUMP IN ANY TIME AND SUPPORT. AND I THINK THEY WILL. REGULATORS, WE DON'T REGULATE SRP. THIS IS A BIG WINNER WITH THE WATER TABLES. WE GO TO 90 MEGA WATTS. WE ALREADY HAVE SOME 20 ODD MEGA WATTS IN SNOWFLAKE OR IN SHOLOW. THAT MEANS WE’RE GOING TO GO CLEAN THE JUNIPERS AND OTHER BIOMASS OUT, AND WE CAN DO FIFTY THOUSAND AN ACHE A YEAR AND IN 20 YEARS CLEAN UP A MILLION ACRES IN ARIZONA. AND THAT’S WHAT THIS BIOMASS SAYS WE CAN DO.

TED SIMONS: IT’S KEY BECAUSE THAT UNDERBRUSH THAT NO ONE SEEMS TO WANT, YOU WILL FINALLY FIND A PURPOSE FOR IT.

ANDY TOBIN: NOT ONLY THAT PURPOSE, BUT WE HAVE ALREADY HAD INQUIRIES OF FOLKS LOOKING TO MAKE PARTICLE BOARD AND OTHER BUSINESS ASPECTS THAT THEY’LL BE ABLE TO SELL AT, WHICH IS HUGE. SO WE THINK THAT WE GOT, FIRST OFF, TED IT’S THE ONLY PLAN TO CLEAN OUR FORESTS RIGHT NOW. WE DON’T HAVE ANYTHING ELSE.

TED SIMONS: WELL IT SEEMS LIKE WE HAVE BEEN DOING THIS FOUR FOREST INTIATIVE FOR I DON'T KNOW HOW LONG—HOW MANY YEARS WE’VE BEEN DOING IT. SEEMS LIKE WE ARE STILL WAITING.

ANDY TOBIN: WELL THANKS FOR HAVING ME ON BECAUSE STATES HAVE TO START TAKING CARE OF THEMSELVES. THIS IS AN IDEA VOID NONE OPENED UP THE DOCKET AND STARTED THIS PROCESS. WE’VE ALREADY HAD MEETINGS AND IT'S TAKEN US A YEAR TO GET HERE. WE THINK WE HIT IT RIGHT ON THE HEAD.

TED SIMONS: THIRD LEG OF THIS IS TO BECOME MORE ENERGY EFFICIENT. WHAT DOES THAT MEAN?

ANDY TOBIN: SO AS YOU LOOK AT THE NEW TECHNOLOGIES THAT ARE MOVING, THE IDEA IS TO CREATE THAT ENERGY THAT YOU ARE NOT THEN TURNING OFF. WHY BUILD PLANT THAT YOU ARE GOING TO STIFLE, LIKE CALIFORNIA TODAY? EVERYONE WOULD SAY CALIFORNIA HAS GOT A LOT OF SOLAR. THE PROBLEM IS WITH CALIFORNIA, THEY BUILT A LOT OF THESE SOLAR PLANTS, BUT AT TIMES OF THE DAY, THEY ARE SENDING IT TO US FOR FREE. SO WE DON’T WANT TO CURTTAIL THESE ASSETS. WE DON’T WANT TO BUILD NEW FACILITIES, LIKE RIGHT NOW, THE NATURAL GAS THING IS A THE BIG THING ON THE MARKET. I DON'T WANT TO BUILD SO MANY OF THOSE THAT WE LOSE THE TECHNOLOGY ADVANCEMENTS FROM BATTERY STUFF SO THEY’LL SIT IDLE. THE NAVAJO GENERATING STATION. SO CLEARLY IT'S GOING AWAY, IT HAS MORE LIFE YEARS ON IT. WE'LL PAY FOR THAT EVEN THOUGH WE ARE NOT USING IT, BUT THE TRUTH IS WE HAVE TO BE SMARTER. WE HAVE TO BE ABLE TO SAY HEY LET'S NOT BUILD THIS STUFF IF IT'S NOT GOING TO WORK FOR US. SO THAT’S WHAT THE EFFICIENCY PART IS.

TED SIMONS: FOURTH FOCUS HERE, INFRASTRUCTURE FOR ELECTRIC VEHICLES. THEY ARE COMING. WE CAN’T AVOID THEM IN THE EAST FALLY, BUT THEY ARE HERE. WHAT ARE WE TALKING ABOUT?

ANDY TOBIN: WHAT WE HAVE NOW IS WE HAVE THE OPPORTUNITY TO GROW THESE ELECTRIC VEHICLES, BUT WE DON'T HAVE PLACES, REALLY THEY ARE CHARGEABLE. SO AS PART OF OUR ENERGY EFFICIENCY PROGRAM, THAT YOU’RE PAYING AND I'M PAYING THROUGH OUR BILLS RIGHT NOW, FOR BETTER LIGHTBULBS AND THERMOSTATS AND ALL THAT. WE WANT TO ADD CHARGING STATIONS AND THINGS THAT WILL HELP PEOPLE INTO BEING ABLE TO BE USING CHARGING STATIONS AT HOME. ESPECIALLY ON NEW HOMES AS WELL. SO WHY SHOULDN'T THAT BE PART OF THE EQUATION? THE THOUGHT PROCESS IS, WE HAVE GOT A PROBLEM IN PHOENIX, THE VALLEY OF THE SUN, EVERYONE KNOWS IT, IT'S CALLED INVERSION. WE HAVE ADQ’S CONSTANTLY DRAWING UP THESE WARNINGS. WE’VE DONE ALMOST ALL WE CAN TO KEEP THIS AIR CLEAN HERE. WHICH YOU CAN'T BURN FIREWOOD DOWN HERE DURING CHRISTMAS EVE. PEOPLE ARE LIKE WHY NOT, WELL THIS IS WHY. THE TRUTH IS WE HAVE TOO MANY CARS, AND IT'S GROWING. THE ELECTRIC CAR PROGRAM CAN ACTUALLY SOLVE THAT AIR PROBLEM, AND ADAQ HAS AFFIRMED IT.

TED SIMONS: YOUR GOAL IS 80 PERCENT CLEAN ENERGY IN ARIZONA BY 2015, BUT THERE’S BEEN SOME CONTROVERSY HERE, BECAUSE YOUR CLEAN ENERGY INCLUDES NUCLEAR. WHY CAN’T WE SEE MORE RENEWABLE AND NOT SO MUCH NUCLEAR?

ANDY TOBIN: SO, AND IT'S 2050, YOU SAID 2015. SO THE ANSWER IS THAT PALO VERDE NUCLEAR GENERATING STATION IS A DIAMOND IN THE DESERT HERE. THERE IS NO MORE EFFICIENT PROGRAM THAN WE HAVE WITH THAT FACILITY. AND BY THE WAY, FOR FOLKS WHO DON’T KNOW, WE SELL POWER FROM THERE TO CALIFORNIA, TO NEW MEXICO, TO TEXAS FROM THERE. WE HAVE 1700 -- 1400, SOMETHING LIKE THAT, MEGA WATTS THAT WE USE HERE. IT'S VERY EFFICIENT. THE COST FOR US TO REPLACE THAT WITH COAL OR NATURAL GAS BECAUSE, REMEMBER THAT’S CHEAPER TODAY, IN CARBONS WOULD JUST BE ASTRONOMICAL, WHEN IT’S NOT COSTING US ANYTHING NOW.

TED SIMONS: IN TERMS OF RAMPING UP TO 2050, IF NUCLEAR IS INCLUDED, SOME WOULD ARGUE THAT IT KIND OF LOWERS SOLAR, AND LOWERS WIND IN TERMS OF THE PERCENTAGE REQUIRED TO GET TO THE 80 PERCENT.

ANDY TOBIN: BUT TO THE SAME POINT I TALKED ABOUT EFFICIENCY, IT'S A BILLION DOLLARS TO BUILD A NEW NUCLEAR PLANT. IT’S NOT THAT FAR OFF FROM OTHER PLANTS THAT WE MIGHT BE BUILDING. I DON'T WANT TO BUILDING MORE PLANT TO REPLACE SOMETHING THAT’S ALREADY THERE. I THINK PEOPLE ARE TRYING TO THINK, “HEY WAIT A SECOND, WITH ALL OF THE SOLAR AND ALL THE WIND, SHOULDN'T OUR BILLS EVENTUALLY COME DOWN?”

TED SIMONS: WELL SHOULDN’T THEY?

ANDY TOBIN: WELL THEY SHOULD BUT THEY’RE NOT.

TED SIMONS: WILL THEY WITH THIS PLAN?

ANDY TOBIN: THEY WILL WITH THIS PLAN. WHAT'S HAPPENING IS WE’RE GOING TO BE GETTING THE ENERGY WHEN WE NEED IT THE MOST, WHEN IT’S THE MOST EXPENSIVE IN THE LATER PART OF THE DAY. RIGHT NOW, WE CAN'T SAY THAT. PEOPLE ARE SITTING OUT FRONT ON THEIR PATIOS, FANNING THEMSELVES, TURNING THE AIR ON AT 7:00 AT NIGHT IN THE SUMMER. THERE IS A REASON FOR THAT, BECAUSE OUR POWER IS MORE EXPENSIVE BECAUSE THE DEMAND IS HIGHER. SO WE HAVE TO HAVE THAT EFFICIENCY PEAK PERIOD, AND WE DO NEED SOME OF THAT BASE LOAD. SO THIS IS A TOTAL LOSS OF CARBON. NOBODY IS BUILDING NEW COAL PLANTS HERE EITHER.

TED SIMONS: LAST QUESTION, THESE ARE GOALS, THEY’RE NOT MANDATES. ARE THEY REALISTIC?

ANDY TOBIN: SO THEY ARE REALISTIC. THE BIOMASS IS A MANDATE. THE COMMISSION IS GOING TO EVENTUALLY VOTE, HOPEFULLY HERE AS QUICK AS WE CAN TO GET THE ENTIRE PLAN TO A RULE MAKING PROCESS SO THAT HOPEFULLY AT THIS TIME NEXT YEAR, WE CAN SAY ARIZONA HAS AN ENERGY PLAN AND A BIOMASS PLAN AT THE SAME TIME AND WE'LL BE LOOKING AT 2019 FIRE SEASON, WITH ACTUALLY A PLAN TO CLEAR THE FOREST.

VERY INTERESTING STUFF. CORPORATION COMMISSIONER ANDY TOBIN. GOOD TO HAVE YOU HERE.

Commissioner Andy Tobin with the Arizona Corporation Commission lays out the agenda detailing battery storage, biomass fuels, energy efficiency and electric vehicle infrastructure to help the state become a leader in clean energy.

Battery Storage

The idea of battery storage will come in handy during the summer when energy costs are the highest. While you’re away at work, a battery will absorb the power you aren’t using at home. When you come home, all that energy is now stored and you pay a lower cost for having it, Tobin explains.

“That’s the start of where this next level of energy history in Arizona is going,” Tobin says. “It’s going to go more toward batteries, more toward renewables, less toward carbons, more toward high technologies.”

Biomass Fuels

Senators John McCain and Jeff Flake have expressed their approval for biomass fuels, Tobin says. With their support, this can be a “big winner.”

The plan is to clean out the junipers and other biomass. About 50,000 acres a year can be cleared which will eventually equate to a million acres in 20 years. That biomass can then be used as fuel. Tobin says this is important because states have to learn to start taking care of themselves

Electric Efficiency

Tobin stresses that it is unnecessary for Arizona to put money into building new facilities. If money is put toward that kind of infrastructure, then funding is lost for the technological advancements we need to see in batteries. It’s a problem that has been seen in California. There’s talk about how great their solar power is, but right now they’re sending energy to other state’s for free.

“We have to be smarter,” Tobin says. “Let’s not build this if it’s not going to work for us.”

Electric Vehicle Efficiency

The goal of this new agenda is to have 80 percent clean energy in Arizona by 2050. Tobin says the state has already done almost all it can to keep the air clean. The main problem is that there are too many cars, and the number just keeps growing. The electric car problem can be the solution.

“We have the opportunity to grow these electrical vehicles, but we don’t have places really to charge them all,” Tobin says. “As part of our energy efficiency program… we want to add charging stations and things that will help people get used to charging stations, especially in new homes.”

However, clean energy means nuclear power. It’s difficult to determine if that is a good thing, but Tobin believes it is. He says the Palo Verde Nuclear Station is a diamond in the desert. We have been selling energy to other states. If that was to be replaced with coal or natural gas, he says the cost change would be astrological.

Tobin says that all of these goals are realistic, and the biomass fuel initiative is even becoming a mandate.

“Hopefully, this time next year we can say Arizona has an energy plan and a biomass plan at the same time. We’ll be looking at a 2019 fire season to find a time to clear the forest.”

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In this segment:

Andy Tobin: Commissioner, Arizona Corporation Commission

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