SRP approves $50k donation to fight Arizona RPS initiative


Another week, another attempt made to dismantle Clean Energy for a Healthy Arizona’s proposed 50% by 2030 renewable portfolio standard (RPS) initiative. After fighting Arizona Public Service (APS) in court and online, the initiative is in the crosshairs yet again, as managers of Salt River Project, a Phoenix-based utility have requested that the nonprofit’s board members approve a $50k donation to fight the measure.

SRP’s September 10 District Board meeting agenda included “Request for approval to contribute $50,000 to a get-out-the-vote and voter education with regard to Proposition 127. ” What’s interesting here is that “voter education” is the same terminology that APS has been using to describe their efforts against the initiative.

SRP board meetings provide no remote viewing or listening options, however Ryan Randazzo of Arizona Republic provided live updates to the meeting, reporting that the board actively distanced themselves from the work of APS. Board members reportedly needed confirmation that the money would go to a PAC unaffiliated with APS before the request would be approved. These members were allegedly concerned about association with APS soiling SRP’s “good name.”

Ultimately the measure passed by a 10-4 vote, though the concerned members got their way, as the money will be given to a PAC unaffiliated with APS.

But, this seems to follow logical order, right? A utility is fighting a measure that would require it to spend money to increase it’s renewable procurement. It’s not the most promising reality, but logically it would work, if it weren’t for the fact that the RPS initiative only applies to utilities under the regulation of the Arizona Corporation Commission (ACC). SRP, however, is not under ACC’s jurisdiction, as it is technically a power co-op.

So why spend public money educating against a ballot initiative that doesn’t apply to you? Well, just because the initiative doesn’t hold any regulatory power over SRP doesn’t mean that the utility won’t feel its effects. SRP is a partial owner of both the Four Corners coal plant and Palo Verde nuclear plant, and the economic viability of both projects could be impacted were Proposition 127 to pass.

SRP has noted that it invests in renewable energy, however it was the first utility known to pv magazine to impose discriminatory demand charges on customers with solar arrays, which effectively killed the rooftop solar market in its service area.

The utility has framed its opposition to Proposition 127 by noting the future economic uncertainty that the law is created, as reflected in a prepared statement by SRP CEO and General Manager Mike Hummel.

“SRP’s commitment to providing reliable and affordable energy to customers is based, in part, on our ability to revise and evolve our resource planning with changing technologies and economic forces. Proposition 127 would greatly diminish the critical decision-making ability of organizations like SRP to plan for the future at a time when we are investing in more renewables and other technology than ever before. I encourage voters to research both sides of this issue to learn about the ramifications of this measure.”

Ultimately, this donation approval becomes another in the long line of hurdles that Proposition 127 has had to face in its tumultuous lifetime. However, it may be too little too late for SRP, as $50,000 is by no means exorbitant in the world of corporate political spending and the election is less than two months away. Furthermore, Clean Energy for a Healthy Arizona has been touting the popularity of the measure, advertising that 75% of Arizona voters support greater investment in renewable energy.

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