Clean-energy ballot measure Prop. 127 now the most expensive in Arizona history
Arizona political consultants and attorneys are getting rich off the epic battle over a clean-energy ballot measure, which has become the most expensive in state history with about $40 million in spending, according to the latest finance reports.
The money on each side has come from essentially two sources.
A group funded by billionaire San Francisco activist Tom Steyer has spent $17.6 million trying to pass Proposition 127, which would require electric companies to get half their power from renewable sources like solar and wind by 2030.
But the parent company of Arizona Public Service Co. has topped that, with $21.8 million spent fighting the measure, according to its latest report.
Campaign finance reports were due to the Arizona Secretary of State's Office by the end of the day Monday and covered spending by political action committees through Sept. 30. Both campaigns still have money left and have continued to spend ahead of the election.
The spending easily tops the 2002 tribal gaming issue that drew three competing ballot measures, according to one longtime political consultant. About $39 million was spent on those campaigns combined.
"From my historical perspective, it is the richest campaign ever," said Paul Bentz, a senior vice president at HighGround Public Affairs Consultants. "That is almost California-level numbers."
Most campaigns for ballot initiatives in Arizona budget between $3 million and $5 million, he said.
"We will be lucky to have 2 million people vote in this election," Bentz said. "That means they (both sides of Prop. 127 combined) will be spending in the realm of $20 a vote."
Television and radio advertisements regarding the proposition are ubiquitous, and many Arizonans find one or more fliers on the proposition every time they open their mailbox. That's to say nothing of the online advertisements they see when they look at their social media accounts.
Arguments for, against Prop. 127
APS officials say that the constitutional amendment would force them to shut down coal and nuclear plants ahead of schedule, and would eventually result in customer bills doubling.
Proponents of the measure point to other Western states where the prices of solar and wind have fallen below the cost of traditional fossil-fuel plants. That includes with battery storage for after sunset, or when the wind stops blowing.
The two sides recently debated the issue before the Editorial Board of The Arizona Republic, and their dispute became heated at times. The board and the news-gathering sides of The Republic operate independently of one another.
Supporters say that companies such as Google and Apple that want to power their facilities with renewable energy will avoid Arizona because neighboring states have higher requirements for solar and wind.
"If Arizona allows our utilities to put forward plans as APS has with no new renewable energy, we are going to be left in the dust," said Kris Mayes, a former Arizona utility regulator advocating for Prop. 127. "Our surrounding states will beat us time and time again for these corporate facilities."
Matthew Benson, a spokesman for the opposition group funded by Pinnacle West, said the matter was simple.
"This will markedly increase the rates paid by consumers, families, and the small businesses (utilities) serve," he said. "This is going to heap billions of dollars in additional costs onto those utilities."
APS planned no large-scale solar projects for 15 years
Mayes cited the resource plan that APS submitted to regulators last year that showed how the company intended to meet the growing electricity demands of its more than 1 million Arizona customers through 2032.
The plan included several new natural gas plants, but no new solar except for what is installed on homes and businesses.
Brad Albert, the vice president for resource management at APS, said large-scale batteries would be needed to have much more renewable energy than already is required.
The state renewable-energy standard set by the Arizona Corporation Commission requires utilities to get 15 percent of their power from renewables by 2025.
"It depends on the viability and cost of storage technologies," Albert said. "Because the sun is not always shining. Our customer peak load occurs after the sun sets. Unless you can move all of this solar energy we have in abundance in Arizona ... the only way to do that is with massive amounts of battery storage."
Mayes and other supporters of the measure contend battery prices are falling enough to support approving the measure.
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- Bill would nullify clean-energy ballot measure
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- Nation's largest nuclear plant threatened by ballot measure
- APS likes one clean-energy plan, fights another
- APS goes all out in ballot-measure fight
- Tom Steyer talks about ballot measure
- Measure cleared for ballot by judge
- SRP officials debate Prop. 127
- Attorney General changed wording on Prop. 127, criticized by supporters
- Prop. 127 survives court challenge
- APS contributes to Dem who opposes Prop. 127
- Prop. 127 losing in poll