Political action committee speaks against renewable energy initiative

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A local political action committee is vocally opposing an initiative proposed by Clean Energy for a Healthy Arizona that aims for 50 percent of the state to run on renewable energy by 2030.

Those for the initiative argue that it will reduce costs for families and companies because the technology behind accessing renewable energy has decreased.

“This is going to be a significant cost to Arizona families,” Matthew Benson, spokesperson for Arizonans for Affordable Electricity, says. “Not only utility bills [will increase] but all the goods and services they purchase. These costs are going to get rolled in and they are going to have to pay that.”

Related: Voters may see Clean Energy for a Healthy Arizona initiative on next ballot

Benson explains that AAE supports the idea of renewable energy and the use of solar power, but they are willing to wait for an affordable plan rather than jumping into it. He says the average household utility bill will go up by about $1,000 annually.

“They [CEHA] like to cherry pick facts,” Benson says. “They like to talk in terms of solar versus coal… The sun doesn’t shine all the time. There are cloudy days, nighttime, during those times you have to have other forms of other infrastructure to fix the difference, [and] batteries that are tremendously expensive.”

Arizona isn’t the only state with this sort of initiative. Neighboring states already have goals like this in place. However, Benson says that California’s utility company has reported that they saw the cost for grid improvements go up from $200 million to $900 million.

The pro-initiative side argues for not only the cost but also for public health. They argue that by moving toward renewable energy, the high rates of asthma in children will decrease. Benson says that it’s not how we get energy that is causing health problems, it’s congestion and tailpipe emissions.

Benson believes that Arizona currently has a reliable system in place. That system does rely on traditional sources of energy like natural gas, coal and nuclear. The initiative doesn’t include nuclear fuel in their renewable standard, and the AAE spokesperson sees that as a problem.

“This initiative is going to have no impact on the air quality that we see here in Phoenix or Tucson,” Benson says. “That’s just a fact.”

Matthew Benson: Spokesperson, Arizonans for Affordable Electricity

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