On Feb. 10, 45 masked members of the SaddleBrooke Republican Club (SBRC) attended its first general meeting in a year on the MountainView Country Club lawn. Staff had arranged cones for social distancing, and the sunny 66 degree weather cooperated. Our speaker was Lea Márquez Peterson, Chairwoman of the Arizona Corporation Commission. She thanked her supporters in the audience, particularly those who hosted meet and greets in their homes during the pandemic.
The Corporation Commission regulates utilities, such as water, gas, wastewater, electricity and railroads, incorporates all businesses in Arizona, and prosecutes securities fraud. Márquez Peterson is committed to clean energy at affordable rates. She emphasizes goals rather than mandates, and her objective is 100% clean energy by 2050. The current hyper-political environment is an impediment to setting a respectful tone for the Commission, streamlining the process for job creators, and prioritizing the interests of ratepayers. A more cooperative partnership with the state legislature, particularly with each house’s natural resources committee, is also indicated.
The pandemic made evident the rural/urban divide in utility access. For example, the absence of broadband in rural communities foreclosed residents’ ability to work from home. Price sensitivity is another issue highlighted by the pandemic.
Although Arizona’s economy has suffered, it is hoped that widespread vaccine availability will accelerate recovery. Arizona’s welcoming business environment has inspired entrepreneurs to leave less business-friendly states and become job creators here. Such newcomers have also had a positive impact on real estate values.
The question and answer segment focused on energy. An audience member with a lengthy career in this sector added additional input. Arizona’s energy sources are comprised of 31% coal, 30% nuclear (generated from the Palo Verde Nuclear Plant), 11-12% renewables, with the remainder from natural gas, which is cleaner than coal. Innovative technologies, such as hydrogen fusion, carbon capture and biogas, will produce future energy sources. She stressed the urgent need to have plans in place to prevent economic devastation to communities when coal plants close.
The unreliability of renewable energy sources was stressed. For example, solar energy can’t be produced at night. When energy demands are high, e.g., the regional heat wave affecting California, blackouts are likely without natural gas, nuclear power, or stored energy as backups. Energy storage is not supported with current technology, however.
Access to wind and solar energy is not uniform among the states, e.g., Washington State furnishes wind to Pennsylvania and solar energy to Illinois. Another problem of renewables is the difficulty of recycling materials at the end of their useful life, ten years for solar panels. This contrasts with spent nuclear fuel which can be recycled into new fuel rods. Nuclear power plants generate zero carbon emissions but the lack of public acceptance in the United States impedes their construction and utilization, unlike in France and Japan.
At the close of this extremely informative meeting, the need for officers to replace those with expired terms and volunteers to serve on redistricting and voting machine committees was mentioned. When circumstances permit, meetings of the SBRC are held on the second Wednesday of every month at 4 p.m. in the MountainView Clubhouse ballroom. For more information, including venue locations, visit the SBRC website at www.saddlebrooke-republican-club.org.