Prop. 412 extends TEP’s progress toward cleaner, greener grid
The following is an editorial opinion published in the Arizona Daily Star on April 23, 2023
By Erik Bakken
TEP Vice President, Energy Resources, and Chief Sustainability Officer
Proposition 412 is just the latest positive step in Tucson Electric Power’s efforts to provide cleaner and more reliable energy to our community.
After recent expansions of our wind and solar power systems, more than 25% of our community’s power now comes from carbon-free renewable resources. And that’s just a start: we’re working to achieve 70% clean energy and an 80% reduction in carbon emissions by 2035.
Prop 412 would only add to these achievements, providing new resources to support the City of Tucson’s Climate Action and Adaptation Plan while facilitating the development of a critical new transmission line. It also would ensure that we can continue building and maintaining our local energy grid on the city’s public rights-of-way for another 25 years.
That’s why a broad coalition of community leaders supports Prop 412, including Mayor Regina Romero, four members of the Tucson City Council, our local police and firefighter associations, state legislators, neighborhood leaders and business groups, including the Tucson Metro Chamber, Southern Arizona Leadership Council and Sun Corridor.
They understand, as some do not, that franchise agreements cannot be used to regulate utility operations or the energy mix we provide to our community. That said, the fact that we found a way to support climate action in an otherwise simple land-use agreement just shows how we’re making the fight for a cleaner future part of everything we do.
Prop 412 emerged from long conversations with city leaders about the best way to serve growing electric needs in the heart of the city. Most of the new funding raised during the first 10 years of the agreement would fund underground construction of a higher-voltage line that has faced resistance from area residents. When our mayor and council suggested that we use remaining funds to support climate action, we were more than happy to agree.
For an average impact of less than $1 per month, then, Prop 412 will allow us to modernize our grid while making funds available for projects that can expand clean energy, support greater use of electric vehicles and develop heat mitigation resources.
Those efforts would benefit from the momentum TEP has created through our own initiatives. We’re currently updating the integrated resource plan that will guide our future investments in a cleaner energy portfolio. That plan is being developed in consultation with our community, including local government representatives, business leaders, environmental advocates and energy experts.
We’re also evaluating responses to our most recent request for new energy resources, a process that will produce significant new investments in cleaner energy technology. We expect to invest nearly $1 billion over the next five years, and hundreds of millions more by the end of the decade, in wind, solar and energy storage systems to support our transition to cleaner energy resources.
We’re taking these steps because TEP is committed to providing reliable, affordable service with a cleaner, less carbon-intensive energy portfolio. Our progress will provide clear benefits for our customers, our investors and our planet, ensuring that our community is aligned with global efforts to combat climate change.
Prop 412 would complement these efforts with new investments in climate resiliency while supporting electric reliability by facilitating grid upgrades and prompt responses to any outages. Our facilities are built to last decades or more, which is why franchises typically extend for 25 years.
TEP has had franchise agreements in place with the City of Tucson for nearly a century. Proposition 412 would extend this productive relationship while allowing us to make new progress toward our shared goals. It’s an important step in our larger journey toward a cleaner energy future.