In Arizona, the energy industry provides vast opportunities for creating new, high-paying jobs, more reliable, efficient and low cost power and heightened energy self-sufficiency — all of which directly improve the quality of life for those living in the Grand Canyon State.
Arizona has long been a state with the necessary resources to be the major energy hub of the Southwest. While there have been previous efforts to formulate a state-wide energy policy, there has never been a specific organization tasked to shepherd the plan. Arizona’s energy industry has had many successes, but the opportunity remains for the state and its leaders to fully realize its capabilities by better leveraging its resources.
CREATING AN ENERGY PLAN FOR ARIZONA
Established in 2011 as a new committee of the Arizona Technology Council, the Arizona Energy Consortium’s first objective was to create an implementable energy plan for Arizona. After garnering input from its many members, as well as other industry stakeholders, in December 2012 the AEC released the “Arizona Energy Roadmap.” The Energy Roadmap provides stakeholders a seat at the table to develop such a plan – one that involves industry, government, academia, lawmakers, regulators and consumers.
At the helm of the Consortium as co-chairs are Michelle De Blasi and Christopher Davey who are distinctly involved in various aspects of the energy industry. “Understanding the playing field, knowing what the goal is, and most importantly, knowing what goal won’t move, is paramount to developing a robust energy industry,” says De Blasi, who works with many energy-related clientele as a shareholder with the national energy practice at the law firm of Greenberg Traurig. Working from Greenberg Traurig’s Phoenix office, De Blasi has collaborated with many other states and stakeholders and brings a vast amount of knowledge as it relates to what works to support a strong energy industry. “There are many successes that have been accomplished within our energy industry. Our Roadmap is a plan so those successes can be much more targeted and repeatable.”
“Without a clear energy roadmap for Arizona, it is impossible for the energy sector to realize its true potential,” says Davey, executive director of Australian-based EnviroMission.
With a strong track record of success in the finance and energy industry, Davey understands that having a business plan for the sector will help attract much needed and vital financial capital. “Arizona and its economic development agencies have done a great job at pursuing the solar industry but their successes can be magnified if there is a state energy plan that provides ‘big picture’ context.”
MODELING AFTER THE ARIZONA BIOSCIENCE ROADMAP
The Energy Roadmap was modeled after the success of the Arizona Bioscience Roadmap, which was also spearheaded by Arizona industry leaders and stakeholders. From 2002 to 2010, the efforts through the Bioscience Roadmap have brought Arizona a 41 percent increase in bioscience jobs, a 27 percent increase in salaries and a 27 percent increase in bioscience establishments.
Like the Bioscience Roadmap, one of the key aspects of the Energy Roadmap is that it does not promote one form of energy over another, and urges further collaboration among the several stakeholder groups that are currently active in promoting progress within the energy industry. “It is critical that we work together on all levels to create and implement a realistic plan to make Arizona the energy hub of the Southwest,” says De Blasi.
“The Roadmap provides a plan focused on regional development and one that utilizes our strong existing energy mix of coal, nuclear and hydropower while promoting an even more diverse energy mix by capitalizing on our vast renewable resources,” adds Davey. “The plan will help the region’s energy industry to better succeed in providing reliable, efficient and low-cost energy to consumers and businesses.”
FINDING COMMON GROUND
The complex membership base of the AEC allows a balance when formulating a strong plan, but diverse interests can also raise challenges in preparing a strategy that will evenly represent the entire industry. “It takes many hours of coordination and input, hard work and collaboration to put something forth that has the potential to succeed,” De Blasi says.“ The first step is to reach agreement on the big picture and now the Energy Roadmap will remain a working document to allow consensus to be developed.”
De Blasi and Davey recognize that a long-term commitment from all industry stakeholders – industry, government and academia – will be required for the Roadmap to be embraced and implemented. “Energy touches every aspect of our lives,” notes Davey, adding “whether we work directly within the industry or not.” Given that fact, there are many efforts within the region to capitalize on meeting the growing energy needs and opportunities. “At the end of the day, the success of the Energy Roadmap will depend on the will of our stakeholders to roll-up their sleeves and find common ground on moving forward on these critical issues,” he says.
The Arizona Energy Roadmap is not the only notable initiative of the AEC. The Consortium is also pursuing projects in 1) energy efficiency — focusing on education, 2) workforce — shifting the perception of technology-related jobs, 3) permitting – removing redundancy and lack of efficiency and 4) technology and innovation – creating a database to identify and connect all aspects of the industry. A copy of the Arizona Energy Roadmap can be obtained at aztechcouncil.org