By Ryan Randazzo | Arizona Republic
Salt River Project officials on Monday hotly debated whether they should get involved in campaign efforts opposing a clean-energy ballot measure that voters will decide in November.
The public utility ultimately decided to contribute a token $50,000 toward the effort but with the promise the funds won’t go to groups affiliated with Arizona Public Service Co., which has been in an all-out campaign to defeat the measure.
The debate within SRP reflects a larger discussion taking place across the state as voters and institutions take sides on Proposition 127, which would require regulated utilities such as APS to get half their power from renewables by 2030.
Regulated utilities only get about 8 percent of their power from solar, wind and other renewables today. SRP has a goal to get 20 percent of its power through efficiency and renewables by 2020. Regulated utilities have mandates to get 22 percent of their power from efficiency by 2020 and 15 percent from renewables by 2025.
SRP would not be directly affected by the measure. But the company has a corporate objective to take the lead in discussions of state energy policy, and officials wanted to note their opposition. Not all board members agreed.
“The public is saying over and over again, we want you to move faster toward a clean-energy future,” board member Paul Hirt said.
“SRP’s move to spend public money on political campaigns should offend all of us. Whenever APS is accused of spending “ratepayer money” on politics, it provides an overly legalistic reply claiming that it is spending its “shareholders’ money,” which, according to that utility, makes an otherwise forbidden expenditure appropriate. SRP, however, is the government and it is absolutely spending “ratepayer money” as that is the only money SRP has to spend. This is indistinguishable from a city using taxpayer money to fund an independent expenditure aimed at getting a politician elected, something that, if legal at all anyway, would be roundly criticized as a waste of taxpayer money.”