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Sierra Club Statement on Tucson Electric Power Attacks on Rooftop Solar, Local Clean Energy Jobs

Tucson Electric Power seeks to undercut local clean energy jobs while maintaining stake in out-of-state polluter


Tucson Electric Power (TEP), a subsidiary of Canadian giant Fortis Corporation, announced plans yesterday to undercut Tucson’s burgeoning solar economy.  In a filing to the Arizona Corporation Commission, TEP proposed a new tariff on residential rooftop solar customers and requested a waiver of the state’s net metering rules.

Net metering gives solar customers full retail credit on their energy bills for the excess power they contribute to the grid for the utility to resell nearby. TEP’s proposal would do away with net metering for new solar customers, pulling the rug out from under the solar industry and stifling local clean energy job growth while the utility maintains a stake in out-of-state coal-fired power plants like the San Juan Generating Station.

In response, Dan Millis, a Sierra Club organizer in Tucson, issued the following statement:

“We need TEP to put Tucson first. Rooftop solar is creating thousands of local jobs here in Arizona, saving Tucson residents and homeowners money, and providing enormous benefits to ratepayers throughout Tucson and the state.  With enormous clean energy potential, we should be doing all we can to protect energy freedom and choice for Arizonans. Instead, utilities like Tucson Electric Power are holding us back by fighting local clean energy and locking our community into dirty, out-of-state coal plants like the San Juan Generating Station. TEP should invest in clean energy here at home, not fight affordable energy solutions and send more of our money out of state to fund its dirty, expensive coal plant. Our community deserves better.”


Arizona created more than 600 new jobs in the state’s growing solar industry in 2014, according to a report released last month by The Solar Foundation. Arizona saw 7.2% job growth in solar and ranks third nationally in total number of solar jobs.

Regulators in New Mexico will soon decide on a plan brought forth by Public Service Company of New Mexico (PNM) to extend the utility’s commitment to the San Juan Generating Station and continue burning coal for years to come. TEP owns half of one of the units of the coal-fired power plant outside Farmington, New Mexico - a unit that still requires the installation of pollution controls.  TEP remains invested in San Juan, despite unforeseen cost increases and questions around plant reliability that put TEP customers at serious financial risk.

The future of coal at the San Juan Generating Station has grown increasingly uncertain in recent weeks as more costs and challenges continue to arise, including the uncertainty of where the plant will get its coal after 2017. In December, TEP announced that it would not purchase the San Juan coal mine that supplies the San Juan Generating Station. In addition, PNM acknowledged that due to a cost accounting error, the total bill for their plan to increase reliance on dirty coal and other expensive fuels had jumped by over $1 billion, with those costs likely being passed on to local ratepayers. This comes just weeks after PNM introduced a rate proposal that, if approved, would result in nearly a $10 per month increase to the average residential home bill due to utility’s plans to continue burning coal at the plant for the foreseeable future. 

Support has evaporated for continued coal burning at the San Juan Generating Station. Last month, a coalition of Arizona community groups and businesses called on Tucson Electric Power (TEP) to divest from the out-of-state San Juan Generating Station and instead to commit to local, clean energy solutions like rooftop solar. 

Groups and companies who in February joined the coalition of organizations calling for TEP to divest from the San Juan Generating Station include the Unitarian Universalist Justice Arizona Network (UUJAZ), the Watershed Management Group, Arizona Physicians for Social Responsibility, the Southern Arizona Green for All Coalition, Arizona Physicians for Social Responsibility, the Centerfor Biological Diversity,Tierra Y Libertad Organization, Robert Bulechek Energy Management, Borderlands Brewing Co., Solar Possibilities Consulting, Sustainable Tucson, Casa Maria Tucson, Tucson, Sky Island Alliance, Wild Earth Guardians, and Great Old Broads for Wilderness - Phoenix/Tucson Broad Band.

Campaign Name: Beyond Coal  


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