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Top Ten Highlights of Cleantech in Arizona

Arizona has long been considered the “solar capital” of the United States with a number of large-scale solar projects currently in the works. In 2006, the Arizona Commission approved their state Renewable Energy Standard and Tariff. This required that all Arizona electric utilities, by 2025, need to generate 15 percent of their total energy from sources of renewable energy. All utilities, each year, need to file implementation guidelines on how they will assist in reaching this goal. The Renewable Energy Standards and Tariff encourage all utilities to utilize wind, solar, biomass, geothermal, biogas, and various other technologies to produce clean energy for the future of Arizona.

1) Ability to Apply for Financial Incentives to Switch to Renewable Energy Sources. Because Arizona State feels so highly about the use of clean technologies, it has created a number of financial incentives that businesses and residences may utilize to bring them one step closer toward renewable energy use and energy efficiency. These incentives include a number of corporate tax credits, green building incentives, industry recruitment and support, local rebate programs, personal deductions, personal tax credits, property tax incentives, sales tax incentives, utility loan programs, and a large number of utility rebate programs.

2) The Creation of Numerous Energy Programs. Through the Energy Office at the Arizona Department of Commerce, a number of programs have been developed to encourage renewable energy usage and energy efficiency. These programs are designed to provide helpful information regarding energy and policy advice, how it assists in reducing monthly utility costs, and how it can improve comfort for many low-income residents in Arizona. Most of these programs were funded in 2009 through the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act, and include an Energy Star Appliance Rebate Program, Energy Emergency Preparedness Program, State Energy Program, Weatherization Assistance Program, and Energy Efficiency and Conservation Block Grant Program. There are also a number of energy efficiency outreach programs, including the Community Energy Program and the Energy Savings Performance Contracting Program.

3) The SMART Project. Increasing research and development into clean technologies, including renewable energy and energy efficiency, is of primary importance to Arizona. Currently, the W.P. Carey School of Business at Arizona State University has created a research project to “determine how Arizonians can make the most of the state’s sustainable energy resources. Economists and engineers will be working to draw solar and other renewable energy companies to the state, and develop interactive tools that will help users get information on renewables and make decisions on what resources would be best for their location.” Through the SMART (Solar Market Analysis and Research Tool) Project, residents and businesses will be able to determine if solar power is a viable option based on their location and various cost constraints.

4) APS Sustainable Design Research Grants to Arizona State University. In an effort to advance sustainability, three grants were given to ASU faculty members to increase sustainability in various disciplines, including industrial, interior, and architecture. According to ED Fox, the vice president and chief sustainability officer for APS, “All three of these projects will help designers and builders create more energy efficient infrastructure, which is important to a sustainable energy future for Arizona.” One of the projects, for example, is designing templates that will optimally orient homes to decrease energy.

5) Energy Efficiency in Arizona State Electric Utilities. In an effort to assist homeowners and businesses to become more energy efficient and conserve energy, the Arizona Corporation Commission voted to uphold a measure requiring Arizona electric companies to decrease the amount of power sold by 22 percent by the year 2020. This ruling for energy efficiency is apt to save electricity customers more than $9 billion over the next decade. As well, by the year 2025, all utilities must get a minimum of 15 percent of their power from renewable sources of energy.

6) Southwest Energy Efficiency Project. Arizona is part of the Southwest Energy Efficiency Project, also known as SWEEP, along with New Mexico, Colorado, Nevada, Utah, and Wyoming. Because of the lagging energy efficiency efforts, and the growing concern of air pollution, SWEEP maintains its focus on energy efficiency policies and programs, along with the increasing promotion of renewable energy sources. Through collaboration with various utilities, local governments, state agencies, universities, environmental groups, private businesses, as well as energy specialists, SWEEP aims to improve overall energy efficiency, not just in homes and businesses, but also within the industrial sector as well.

7) Arizona Smarter Greener Better Homes Program. One popular residential energy efficiency initiative is the Arizona Smarter Greener Better Homes Program. Arizona is providing a number of incentives to residential contractors who install Energy Star certified products, including high efficiency natural gas water heaters and qualified furnaces. These homes will offer all the amenities found in any other home, but will conserve energy at the same time.

8 ) The Work of Arizona PIRG. Arizona PIRG is a group that works on behalf of the citizens of the state of Arizona to get results that will increase health and well-being. One of the top issues on their agenda has always been energy efficiency. To help Arizona reach a 20 percent increase in energy efficiency in 2020, they supply a number of solutions, including access to safe, reliable, as well as affordable electricity service, and the requirement that the state balances the short versus long term needs of consumers from all class backgrounds.

9) Arizona Low-Income Energy Conservation Program. Arizona, because of the increase in low-income area, has devised a program along with Southwest Gas Corporation that provides assistance with home improvements that will save households money and increase the total amount of energy efficiency throughout the home. This program is available to individuals who meet the income qualifications created by the United States Department of Energy’s Weatherization Assistance Program.

10) Arizona Recycling Coalition. The Arizona Recycling Coalition is a non-profit organization that promotes various efforts of recycling throughout the state’s public sector and business communities. They provide important information on issues regarding waste reduction and promote a number of programs and events that enhance knowledge and advocacy about recycling throughout Arizona.

Article by Shawn Lesser, president and founder of Atlanta-based Sustainable World Capital, which is focused on fund-raising for private equity cleantech/sustainable funds, as well as private cleantech companies and M&A. He is also a co- founder of the GCCA Global Cleantech Cluster Association, and can be reached at