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AZ's Prop. 127 Would Create Thousands of Clean Energy Jobs

Solar and wind power outside Wilcox, Arizona. Credit: milehightraveler/iStock.

Arizona is one of the top states for solar employment, with about 10,000 well-paying solar jobs. In fact, solar already employs more people than any other power source—like coal or natural gas—in the state. Yet Arizona’s clean energy workforce, like its solar resource, still remains largely untapped, and Arizona has actually lost solar jobs over the past five years. This November, Arizonans will have the opportunity to push the state toward a cleaner future and create a stronger clean energy economy by voting for Proposition 127.

New analysis finds that Proposition 127, which would require the state’s largest utilities to gradually increase the amount of electricity that comes from renewable sources like solar and wind to 50 percent by 2030, could support an additional 15,800 full-time jobs in 2030, spurred by the new renewable energy development in the state. This represents direct jobs (e.g. solar installers), indirect jobs (e.g. jobs along the solar supply chain), and induced jobs (e.g. jobs created across the general economy due to spending by those in solar industry). These clean energy jobs would generate $1.2 billion in wages and $2.2 billion in economic activity in 2030.

Table 1: Employment impacts from Arizona RPS (jobs/year)

A strengthened RPS would create thousands of good clean energy jobs, with positive ripple effects throughout the economy.
Table 2: Economic impacts from Arizona RPS ($, millions)

A strengthened RPS would generate billions of dollars in wages, and increase economic output.

The IMPLAN model

NRDC, NextGen Policy Center, and GridLab worked with renowned energy firm ICF to analyze the effects of strengthening renewable energy standards across the Southwest, including Proposition 127’s 50 percent renewable energy standard. Our modeling was conducted in two steps.

First, using ICF’s Integrated Planning Model (IPM), which is also used by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and state agencies, ICF modeled the impact of a 50 percent RPS on Arizona’s power sector based on assumptions provided by NRDC, NextGen Policy Center, and GridLab. This first step focused on what Prop. 127 would mean for the state’s future energy mix, future power additions, and energy costs for every day. (NRDC detailed the results of the electric sector modeling for Arizona here.)

From the projected power sector impacts of a stronger renewable future, ICF then used the IMPLAN model to forecast the economic and employment impacts of these power sector changes. IMPLAN is a widely used economic model that can forecast changes in state employment and economic activity from energy sector investments. This includes direct employment (jobs in the clean energy industry), indirect employment (jobs in upstream industries), and induced employment effects (jobs supported by the re-spending of wages earned in direct and indirect employment). The result of this second step shows that a stronger RPS in Arizona could support 15,800 jobs and drive $2.2 billion in new economic activity in 2030.

Results: More Jobs with Less Pollution

Our modeling shows that a 50 percent renewable standard would mean not only a cleaner and healthier future, but a stronger economy for Arizona.

ICF’s power sector modeling also found that Arizona can meet a 50 percent renewable energy standard in a manner that would:

  • Drive 9.9 gigawatts of new solar development in the state by 2030 (compared to 2017), which will provide enough electricity to power 1,960,000 Arizona homes every year.
  • Save households money. The already-low and still-falling cost of clean energy means lower electricity bills for Arizona families. Recalculated using the second-round of IPM results, average household utility bills are $33 less a year in 2030 with a 50 percent renewable standard, compared to utilities' fossil fuel-fired future. Between 2020 and 2030, the average Arizona household would see $240 in electricity bill savings.
  • Reduce Arizona’s carbon footprint. Compared to the fossil- heavy future, annual power plant carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions are 19 percent lower in 2030.
  • Reduce harmful air pollution from the state’s power plants. Compared to 2017 levels, by 2030, emissions of nitrogen oxides (NOx) from Arizona power plants would be 50 percent less than 2017 levels with Proposition 127, and sulfur dioxide (SO2) emissions would fall by 14 percent. When power plants emit less NOX and SO2, Arizonans breathe less soot and smog, resulting in fewer asthma attacks, ER visits, and premature deaths. Using standard benefit-per-ton estimates from the U.S. EPA, these reductions in harmful air pollution would lead to between $28 million and $63.4 million in annual health benefits for Arizonans in 2030.

This growth in solar across the state also means new jobs for the state’s clean energy industry, bringing more investment into local communities and growing the state’s economy. The boost in clean energy production fueled by the 50 percent RPS will spur more jobs for construction workers, solar manufacturers, installers, and engineers.

Rebutting APS’s Seidman Institute Study

Our modeling directly contradicts the findings of a recent report from the Seidman Research Institute at Arizona State University (ASU) paid for by the state’s largest for-profit utility, Arizona Public Service (APS). APS has vociferously opposed Prop. 127, already spending $11 million to fight it. The Seidman Institute study looked at the economic impact of a 50 percent RPS, finding that it would cost the state and Arizonans. Like all modeling, their economic model’s inputs and assumptions are incredibly important in influencing the outcomes. Unfortunately, the data Seidman used comes straight from APS, an openly biased source, and that data has not been available to the public to fact check. As a counterpoint, NRDC, NextGen Policy Center, and GridLab’s efforts rely on public government sources—primarily the U.S. Energy Information Administration’s Annual Energy Outlook 2018 and the National Renewable Energy Laboratory’s 2017 Annual Technology Baseline—and the Integrated Planning Model, which is well-documented and regularly used by many stakeholders in the electricity sector, like the Environmental Protection Agency and energy companies. A detailed description of the inputs and assumptions of our modeling are available in this blog.

Unsurprisingly, given that they are relying on APS for data and assumptions, Seidman’s study projects that the state will lose thousands of jobs over the next 43 years. One of the flawed assumptions we know about is APS’s baseless claim about Palo Verde Nuclear Generating Station. The ASU analysis accepts without question that the plant will shut down under the initiative: an assumption contradicted by our modeling, the U.S. Government, and financial firms. Seidman then finds that the shutdown will lead to a loss of tax revenue. In reality, the plant will run 24/7 in a future where Arizona and utilities around the West build a lot more wind and solar power plants.

Prop. 127 would lower bills, improve air quality, and strengthen Arizona’s economy

The benefits of a local clean energy economy are clear and growing. Arizonans should embrace solar energy’s potential to lower the state’s costs, lower their bills, and improve their air quality while creating good-paying jobs.

NRDC Expert Blog by Dylan Sullivan

Republished with permission from the Natural Resources Defense Council's expert blogs.

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