Since my last article, I have traveled practically non-stop to leadership and energy conferences from Colorado to Washington DC, scheduled back-to-back meetings from Phoenix at the Capital to speaking events and group meetings all around Yavapai and Coconino Counties. This is all great news, certainly not for the miles on my car, but because of the stunning opportunities to accomplish good work in two of life’s most important issues - Water and Energy.
Of course, the overarching issue that creates the most consternation, conflict and fear is growth. We ask the painful questions, over and over again, “...how will we sustain ourselves and future growth if we continue the wasteful practices to which we now cling?” Great question! The answer is simple. We are going to have to change. Change is complicated when dealing with set human ways and processes. It is hard to imagine new ways of doing things. More importantly, government does not like new or different processes, technologies, or management techniques. We are all subject to habits for the good, the bad, or the wasteful.
Nevertheless, here are some brief facts that we must consider in order to move Arizona into the 21st Century, responsibly. Arizona is increasing in population by about 180,000 to 250,000 each year. Right now, utility companies are spending hundreds of millions of dollars scrambling to keep up with our growth’s infrastructure and transmission demands every year. Let us also keep in mind that we are the number one growth state in the United States even with our real estate market slow down.
I have been asking regulated utility companies, how many more rate increases they are going to request from the Corporation Commission. How many more rate increases is the average citizen going to be able to bear? When utility companies advertise on television that they are environmentally sensitive, we should ask why they are buying electricity from wind in Wyoming, instead of building windmill technology in Arizona. Why do we not use the solar resource that we have more abundantly than any other state or country in this hemisphere? Why are we not inviting, even creating incentives for solar, wind and other renewable energy technological manufacturing companies instead of creating incentives for big box stores? Why are we not training students in Arizona’s community colleges, and universities to create the necessary advanced technologies future workforce? These questions are a mere sampling of the many questions involved with moving Arizona forward into sustainable growth and world economy of which we are already a part, whether or not we like or adapt to change.
In my next column, I will report on the “stakeholders” meeting I have brought together to answer important questions, address concerns, and promote positive ideas for new legislation that I am sponsoring in the 2008 Energy Act. I have proposed four major themes to the utilities, environmentalists, developers, ranchers, farmers, renewable energy generation companies, municipalities, counties and more. Each will have one high level representative to contribute to and work through this new legislation. The point is to work together. This is going to be a great year at the legislature for Arizona’s future!