A future with a stable climate and a strong economy powered by clean, reliable energy is the stuff of individual dreams.

Getting there will require more than imagination – it will take a coalition.

Tucson Electric Power is among more than 60 companies and organizations that have joined the landmark Arizona Thrives Alliance to attract more high-wage jobs and enhance the livability of our communities.

TEP serves on the taskforce of Arizona Thrives, an effort by The Nature Conservancy (TNC) that brings together diverse interests to reduce carbon and improve environmental health. The taskforce is seeking solutions that will satisfy federal air quality standards for ozone emissions by 2024 and achieve net zero carbon emissions by 2050.

“There is some urgency to act now,” said TNC State Director Pat Graham. “Together, we are creating a comprehensive approach to the complex challenge of accelerating the transition to cleaner energy and crafting a vibrant economy for the future of Arizona that benefits everyone.”

Graham said that with temperatures in Arizona among the hottest in the nation and with several counties ranking low among states for air quality, proactive measures cannot wait.  Inaction means leaving public health, the water supply and the economy vulnerable, he added.

“We are changing the conversation so we can all agree on a direction we’re trying to head and work together to create the best path to get there,” he said. “Spending less time in polarized debates means we can put our energy into building trust and crafting actual solutions.”

Strategies identified include supporting electric vehicles (EVs) and clean energy innovation, creating cool islands and corridors in urban areas by planting of the right kind of trees, encouraging telecommuting to reduce congestion and improving forest management.

Take, for example, the transition to EVs, considered one of the most important keys in cleaning the air. “No one entity can accomplish widescale adoption,” Graham said, “but we can collaborate and get there faster.” Homebuilders can help by installing chargers in new homes. Businesses can help by installing chargers for emplyoees and customers. Government can help with subsidies and utilities can plan for their integration into the grid.

“What we’re trying to do here has never been done before. I think the leadership of companies like TEP is critical because it’s not just about making the commitments to transition to clean energy and clean air, but it’s about how to get there. Utilities have the expertise, knowledge, networks and capabilities to do that, so it’s critical that they are at the table.”

Erik Bakken, TEP’s Vice President of System Operations and Energy Resources and a TNC board member, said TEP was pleased to join the conversation and support the effort.

“It isn’t a choice between the economy and cleaner air. In fact, there’s an opportunity to stimulate the economy with new energy jobs associated with energy efficiency, as well as with new solar and wind advancements,” he said. “This entire discussion aligns with our strategy as a company to reduce carbon responsibly and cost effectively.”

TEP recently announced plans to provide 70 percent of its power from wind and solar resources while reducing carbon emissions 80 percent by 2035.

“It’s a legitimate question we’re being asked: What can we do as an energy industry to support sustainable development and our quality of life in Arizona? How can we make sure we’re preserving and conserving the wild spaces within our state, which have become that much more of a focus as we navigate the pandemic.”

“We’re excited about contributing to a cleaner, greener grid, but we are just one piece of the puzzle. Addressing these most critical environmental challenges is really going to take cooperation across sectors to be successful,” Bakken said.

For more information about the effort, please visit: https://www.nature.org/en-us/newsroom/arizona-thrives-report-air-quality-economy/

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