Not only is the Resource Plan chinless, it is also a stale, unimaginative and uninspiring vision with myopic horizons. It is as if one of Arizona’s largest corporations — a company that enjoyed $3.5 Billion in revenue last year — is pleading not only for absolution, but for inspiration. When your CEO is paid $8 million in a single year, one might expect that some inspiration and leadership would be generated.
In the second paragraph of the Resource Plan, the utility proclaims an eleventh-hour awakening to the value of energy efficiency and renewable resources; and then makes a somewhat timid request, “to preserve the option for potential future development of a new baseload nuclear resource.” How many pacifying qualifiers does one sentence need?
The second paragraph’s final sentence disparages what have long been the utilities' favored toxic fuels: coal and methane. The disparaging statement about coal is revealing, “APS believes that the risk of future climate change legislation and the potential for significant resulting cost increases make the acquisition of new coal resources unattractive at this time [emphasis mine].” Please notice that the company’s concern arises from the risk of cost increases due to legislation, not from the risk of global warming itself.
Before detailing the Resource Plan’s primary components, growth projections are given that match those projected here on Rate Crimes. The first component listed is, “Increased energy efficiency programs … because they are cost effective, reduce environmental impacts, and provide a means for customers to manage their usage and costs.” While this is an admirable statement of fact, it stands in as stark contrast against the reality of the long-standing, repressive rate schedules as does their second component, to “accelerate acquisition of renewable resources”.
The third component listed is “baseload power.” They define this power as, “energy that is available 24 hours a day, 365 days a year.” The utility claims, “there are currently two options available: coal and nuclear.” However, having disparaged coal, there would now appear to remain only a single “option”. But is even the leftover option of renukeable energy viable? The resource plan leaves it to us to ponder that question.
The Resource Plan neglects three critical points: First, in great part, the long-standing policy of rate schedules that repress solar energy and energy conservation is what has led to an inordinate need for further “baseload power.” Second, a single coal or nuclear generating unit cannot meet their definition of “baseload power”. Even an expensive plant of multiple generating units is at risk for failing to meet this demanding and problematic standard. The previous point regarding redundancy hints at the third point. For “baseload power” there is, at least, a third option: superior distributed network design.
Within the framework of distributed network design, their third component and their fourth, “peaking power”, merge into one.
Because central generation has so long appeared to be the easy solution, gargantuan organizations have agglomerated around the colossal generating plants. The thinking within these distended organizations naturally petrifies to where the world is seen predominantly in terms of colossal generating plants that promote further expansion of the organization, ad infinitum: a self-perpetuating version of Conway’s Law.
Organizations which design systems are constrained to produce designs which are copies of the communication structures of these organizations.
No matter how many extraordinary engineers such an organization might employ, the institutionalized professional deformation and the contingencies of daily operations result in the viewing of energy delivery challenges as a problem of resource acquisition.
Let there be no doubt: The utilities, the Commission, the Legislature, the Governor, and all citizens will soon experience unprecedented stresses in preparing for Arizona’s future energy demands. However, the problem of energy in Arizona goes far beyond the issue of energy generation; and is beyond the purview of the Arizona Corporation Commission.
Abandoning the sun for far too long was bad enough. Allowing a sprawl of poorly-designed, poorly- constructed, and tragically temporary structures to proliferate in a desert is epically criminal. It is hard to plead ignorance as a defense when clarion calls for sustainable solutions were being made a half-century ago.
The challenge that must now be met is not so much a resource acquisition problem as a systems design problem. Returning to Conway’s Law, the appropriate systems that gather and share energy must be reflections of appropriate organizations and political systems.
No one appears to be considering this underlying issue. The APS Resource Plan abdicates. The ACC is chartered to regulate, not to create policy. There are people in the legislature whose understanding is so meager that they would promote nuclear energy as somehow being renewable.
It is very possible that the system that brought us to this juncture is incapable of extricating either Arizona’s citizens or itself. There can certainly be no absolution.
It will be difficult to repair the damage done by decades of mismanagement. We can now choose to continue this tradition and send compounded costs to the future, or we can accept the burden for ourselves.
The first step must be to free the market from repressive rate schedules. Just as immediately, rigorous and mandatory building standards must be established with adequate monitoring and enforcement. The third crucial element is to design, develop and deploy a distributed energy network. The monitoring capabilities must be part of the rapid deployment of this system. These are all things that should have been initiated at least a decade ago. With Arizona’s solar resources, the knowledge in it universities, and its expertise in solar energy, the state should long ago have been the birthplace of the modern, distributed, sustainable energy network.
But before this network can be created, the system that can create this network must be created.