By Erick O’Donnell

It’s been almost two months since Arizona’s utility regulator kicked off what’s sure to be a long and contentious fight over how much homeowners with rooftop solar deserve to be paid for the electricity they share with their neighbors. We’ve commented on the Arizona Corporation Commission’s head-slapper of a decision to reopen an already thoroughly litigated issue, so now we will try to anticipate some of the anti-solar rhetoric that’s likely to pop up in the ensuing discussions. One of the most pernicious falsehoods about solar is that it’s unreliable—and, conversely, that its Earth-heating legacy competitors are a firm rock we can stand on.

The state’s largest provider of electric power has cited its abundant stock of fossil-fuel infrastructure as reason to dismiss any concerns over the state’s energy security. Such reassurance might satisfy those who have listened to comments from public officials—many of whom are closely associated with fossil-fuel interests—who have derided solar, wind, and other renewable energy sources as fickle and unreliable in comparison to coal and natural gas.

But people who have paid attention to recent developments in the planet’s changing climate are more likely to have some skeptical questions. Even as officials seek to roll back Arizona’s gains in solar-enabled energy independence, recent events are proving that solar power will be crucial to Arizonans’ energy security and access to scarce resources.

Rosy predictions about the resilience of Arizona’s energy infrastructure in its current, heavily fossil-dependent state are far from reliable given some stark realities. Researchers at ASU found that the risk of cascading grid failures increases by a factor of 30 with each increase of a degree Celsius in average annual temperatures.

What’s more, the financial viability of fossil fuels as a cheap, dependable energy source is doubtful given that the EPA, under President Biden’s direction, is currently preparing regulations that would dramatically increase the cost of such fuels to account for the damage they cause to our planet. This makes exploring other options, such as the clean energy programs advocated by the EPA, even more crucial.

All in all, fossil fuels could soon turn out to be as unreliable as they are dirty. By contrast, renewable energy, especially solar, is proving its value as a critical component of a resilient, dependable grid.

Solar power and battery storage helped prevent power outages in Texas during the heat wave that struck the southern half of the United States this past summer. When energy demand shot up along with the mercury, solar power helped stabilize the grid with badly needed electricity, preventing grid failures. That likely saved lives. Meanwhile, events proved more embarrassing for fossil-fuel energy, which we’ve heard touted as the only energy source we can count on, apart from nuclear. One of two plant failures mentioned in ICN’s article was a coal plant. The other was a nuclear plant.

Whether we can rely on our electrical infrastructure determines whether we can rely on our taken-for-granted access to vital resources, especially water.

Global warming simultaneously increases the need for fresh water (as a coolant for the power plants needed for air conditioning) and decreases its availability in the form of precipitation. Reduced rain and snowfall, in turn, threaten to idle the state’s sources of hydropower, increasing our reliance on water-sucking power plants.

As we observed in our previous article, the interconnected nature of our resource challenges means there is virtually no aspect of civilization that is left untouched by the climate crisis. We should be looking for solutions that are correspondingly wide-ranging in their effects. Solar power is one such solution. To understand more about how solar energy works and its growing importance, readers can visit the U.S. Energy Information Administration’s Solar Explained page for detailed insights.

Solar panels require no water to cool them down, unlike Arizona’s thirsty coal and nuclear plants. What’s more, they eliminate the need to burn a corresponding amount of coal or natural gas to serve a given household, slowing the accumulation of greenhouse gases that is depriving us of water.

Speaking of reliability, it’s worthwhile to reflect on who we can rely on to foster the clean, abundant energy sources that we need. It doesn’t seem to be public officials, who are often eager to stymie the country’s clean-energy transition with imaginative interpretations of facts. You may recall that pro-fossil-fuel politicians and pundits blamed renewable energy for Texas’s deadly winter power outages in 2021, contributing to the anti-solar misinformation that makes going green such a steep climb. This is especially ironic given that renewables helped save Texas’s hide this past summer.

That spontaneous disinformation campaign was just one data point in a trend line that is fairly easy to read. Public officials are as liable to inhibit as to encourage the growth of America’s green-energy economy, especially in states with deeply established profit centers in the form of fossil-fuel infrastructure.

That’s why people who benefit from a reliable energy grid and a healthy environment—which is to say, everyone—has a civic duty to stay engaged in public discussions over whether to foster or stymie the growth of clean energy. (We know we will, and once the Corporation Commission schedules another public meeting in its rate case, we’ll be sure to let you know.)

As it turns out, we are the ones we have to rely on to secure our energy future.

A bright energy future is won through individual initiative, not just government support. If you’re ready to put the sun to work for your household, then call SUNSOLAR SOLUTIONS today at (602) 362-7711 to have a design prepared for your home free of charge.