SRP Candidate Questionnaire Responses

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Environment Arizona is a non-profit organization working to protect our air, water, and open spaces. We requested that each of the candidates for SRP’s District Board respond to the questions below by March 16, 2020. We let the candidates know we would share unedited responses with our supporters and interested others prior to the SRP District Board Election on April 7, 2020. Environment Arizona is not endorsing candidates in this election. This questionnaire is intended solely to provide information about the policy positions of the candidates. Responses are listed in alphabetical order by last name. If you or someone you know haven’t requested a ballot to vote in the SRP election, please go to www.SRPVote.org.

At-large Seat 11

Christopher J. Dobson

  1. SRP’s 2035 Sustainability Goals have been widely lauded due to commitments such as building the necessary infrastructure for electric vehicles, reducing water waste and diverting solid waste from landfills. If elected, what would you do to make sure SRP’s commitment to these goals remain on track? Do you support SRP moving further and faster to reduce carbon emissions? 

Over the past few years the SRP Board has been able to accelerate the growth of very large utility-scale solar systems, and as of late 2019, the building of the largest battery storage plant in Arizona. These recent developments are a win-win. As a community we get to breathe cleaner air, but also SRP’s customers are paying some of the lowest rates in the industry at the same time, in part to the very low construction costs attributed to large scale solar plants. 

For me, supporting the dynamic growth of renewables, from solar, to wind, to low-head hydro, makes perfect sense. I’m also a proponent of the adoption of more battery storage as those prices come down.

I have more than a decade’s worth of utility experience at SRP, as a council member, and (formerly) as a board member. So, if elected, not only will I have the desire to really push SRP’s advanced renewable development, but I’ll have the knowledge, experience, and relationships to get the board there.

  1. Despite the benefits that solar brings to our environment and our health, since the SRP board approved demand charges and higher fixed monthly charges for new residential solar customers in 2015, SRP customers have installed solar at a much slower rate than APS and other utilities. If elected, what would you do to change SRP’s policies to encourage more customers to install rooftop solar? If elected, would you vote to support bringing the monthly cost of fixed fees for solar customers in line with other residential customers?

I served on the SRP Council when the board had the 2015 Pricing Process. I think it was a mistake of the previous CEO to recommend those higher costs on residential solar customers. I’m really about fairness. All customers should be treated fairly, and cover their share of costs of operating this public utility. That goes for solar customers too! I’m supportive of flat monthly fixed fees for across all residential classes, but I caution against any program that would shift fixed costs to lower income customers. 

There was no mention of M-Power, but I’d like to say that this is a customer class that needs help. M-Power customers pay as they go with power needs. Essentially it’s “cash in advance.” In my business, people that pay in advance get a little bit of a break. So why do M-Power customers pay more that other residential customers? If elected, I’d like to address that issue too, and have those customers get a big price break.

  1. The 21st century utility will need to integrate high levels of renewable energy with energy storage to meet customer demand. If elected, how would you put SRP on a path to integrate renewable resources with energy storage?

  1. To vote in the SRP election, a customer must be a registered voter and a landowner living within certain boundaries of SRP’s territory. Furthermore, the voting is acreage based. If elected, what will you do to remove barriers for SRP customers that want to vote in SRP elections?

Legally, there are restrictions in place that disallow elected officials from disenfranchising SRP landowners from their voting rights. But, in the 1970’s the state legislature and SRP created 4 at-large seats, to allow more voters to vote. It’s in the spirit of that law that I believe the opportunity exists. To expand the voting area to all SRP customers to be able to vote for the 4 at-large board members. I think that’s the best chance of getting done, and I’m all in favor of it.

Anda G. McAfee

  1. SRP’s 2035 Sustainability Goals have been widely lauded due to commitments such as building the necessary infrastructure for electric vehicles, reducing water waste and diverting solid waste from landfills. If elected, what would you do to make sure SRP’s commitment to these goals remain on track? Do you support SRP moving further and faster to reduce carbon emissions? 

As a Director of Corporate Program Management and Engineer at a Fortune 500 company, I am experienced at overseeing the successful delivery of program outcomes by understanding and monitoring the leading indicators of a program’s progress to ensure a successful outcome.

The plan from the SRP website to “Reduce the amount of CO2 emitted (per megawatt-hour) by 62% from 2005 levels by 2035 and by 90% by fiscal year 2050…” seems reasonable and aggressive but I would strengthen it by moving towards 100% instead of 90%.

As an engineer working in a corporate environment, I focus on metrics.  One metric that is lacking is for rooftop solar. The plan would be stronger if there were a quantitative goal for the following:  “Grid enablement: Enable the interconnection of all customer-sided resources, including solar photovoltaic (PV) and battery storage, without technical constraints while ensuring current levels of grid integrity and customer satisfaction.”

  1. Despite the benefits that solar brings to our environment and our health, since the SRP board approved demand charges and higher fixed monthly charges for new residential solar customers in 2015, SRP customers have installed solar at a much slower rate than APS and other utilities. If elected, what would you do to change SRP’s policies to encourage more customers to install rooftop solar? If elected, would you vote to support bringing the monthly cost of fixed fees for solar customers in line with other residential customers?

The electric utility industry is undergoing transformation due to renewable portfolios, distributed energy solutions, energy storage, etc.  The current rate structure is due for an overhaul because it has not kept up with change. An updated rate design needs to align rates with the operating expenses, but also encourage de-carbonization, flexibility and differing customer needs.

I oppose penalizing rooftop solar customers.  I recently purchased rooftop solar. It seems unfair that non-solar customers can pick a rate plan without demand charges but solar customers cannot.

  1. The 21st century utility will need to integrate high levels of renewable energy with energy storage to meet customer demand. If elected, how would you put SRP on a path to integrate renewable resources with energy storage?

It is great that SRP has started down that path.  It was announced last year that SRP would build the biggest battery on the power grid in Arizona as part of its pledge last year to add 1,000 megawatts of solar to its supply by 2025.

Unrelated to energy storage, a more cost effective alternative to building more capacity is to sign more demand response agreements.  In order to shave off the top of the “Super Peaks” that occur in the summer, SRP pays companies to reduce their demand during 2-hour time blocks for a certain number of times per year. Current agreement is for 30MW.  Can it be expanded to 100MW?

  1. To vote in the SRP election, a customer must be a registered voter and a landowner living within certain boundaries of SRP’s territory. Furthermore, the voting is acreage based. If elected, what will you do to remove barriers for SRP customers that want to vote in SRP elections?

Yes. There is a voter’s rights issue with SRP’s voting system.

Even with their current voting system, their map was last updated in 1937.  Within the 1937 map, there are >1,000,000 customers and of those about 600,000 are eligible to vote due to agreements made >100 years ago.  Of the 600,000 eligible voters, about 12,000 voted in the last election because so few know about it. There is lots of room for improvement even within the current system where only 1-2% of eligible voters are participating.

The voting system should be overhauled and updated to include every SRP rate-paying customer registered to vote in the state of Arizona.  Additionally, the acre-based voting makes no sense – especially for the power side of the company. Of the few people that participate in the SRP election, the large acre landowners have a disproportionate say.  This is understandable under the current system, but not representative of the Phoenix population.

Greg Patterson

Did not answer the questionnaire.

At-large Seat 13

Nick Brown

  1. SRP’s 2035 Sustainability Goals have been widely lauded due to commitments such as building the necessary infrastructure for electric vehicles, reducing water waste and diverting solid waste from landfills. If elected, what would you do to make sure SRP’s commitment to these goals remain on track? Do you support SRP moving further and faster to reduce carbon emissions? 

SRP currently has more drive ‘n’ rides than any other organization in AZ. The $2500 credit with Nissan makes Leaf with extended range (226 mi) available at $34K. Closing NGS reduced water consumption by 20,000 ac-ft/yr.  Elected in 2016, I was part of these accomplishments. SRP and all other utilities should commit to zero C emissions by 2040. This can probably only be done through some kind of Federal price on C.

  1. Despite the benefits that solar brings to our environment and our health, since the SRP board approved demand charges and higher fixed monthly charges for new residential solar customers in 2015, SRP customers have installed solar at a much slower rate than APS and other utilities. If elected, what would you do to change SRP’s policies to encourage more customers to install rooftop solar? If elected, would you vote to support bringing the monthly cost of fixed fees for solar customers in line with other residential customers?

We were unsuccessful in improving solar rooftop rates in 2018; outvoted 10-4. We simply need to build more effective coalitions among our board colleagues to get to 7-7 at least. The President would be reluctant to vote against solar if such a high profile moment were presented and he was the tie-breaking vote. And we will mount a challenge to David Rousseau in 2022.

  1. The 21st century utility will need to integrate high levels of renewable energy with energy storage to meet customer demand. If elected, how would you put SRP on a path to integrate renewable resources with energy storage?

I often talk about externalized costs of C in committees and board meetings.  We need to continue talking about the externalization of C costs. As long as nobody pays for climate changing C emissions, it will continue to look like C intensive energy production is a better choice than clean energy. 

There is also too little discussion about the cost of firming solar overnight and at the tail of the duck curve, and the need to do it. If we include the costs of climate-related natural disasters (up 3X 2010-19 over 2000-10), solar is much more affordable than fossil energy.

  1. To vote in the SRP election, a customer must be a registered voter and a landowner living within certain boundaries of SRP’s territory. Furthermore, the voting is acreage based. If elected, what will you do to remove barriers for SRP customers that want to vote in SRP elections?

It’s a mess. Voting rules are enshrined in Arizona Revised Statutes (state law). So only the legislature can change those rules. As long as we have a red legislature, it would not be wise to ask them to tinker with SRP’s legal status. (Think state-controlled utility, with a board appointed by the red governor, that wants new revenues from SRP power and water sales.)  Accordingly, the only way to fix this problem is to seat a blue-controlled legislature.

Wendy L. Marshall

Did not answer the questionnaire.

District Board – Voting Division 1

Kevin J. Johnson

Did not answer the questionnaire.

District Board – Voting Division 3

Sean Patrick Feeney

  1. SRP’s 2035 Sustainability Goals have been widely lauded due to commitments such as building the necessary infrastructure for electric vehicles, reducing water waste and diverting solid waste from landfills. If elected, what would you do to make sure SRP’s commitment to these goals remain on track? Do you support SRP moving further and faster to reduce carbon emissions? 

I would encourage the Board to be more aggressive in their sustainability plans. Looking at the progress made in the last few years, 90%+ greenhouse gas emissions reduction is achievable well before 2050. I would also like to see them be more specific about what “enablement of 500,000 EVs” means, and how exactly they will improve their solar demand charge plans and otherwise incentivize and support the use of renewables.

  1. Despite the benefits that solar brings to our environment and our health, since the SRP board approved demand charges and higher fixed monthly charges for new residential solar customers in 2015, SRP customers have installed solar at a much slower rate than APS and other utilities. If elected, what would you do to change SRP’s policies to encourage more customers to install rooftop solar? If elected, would you vote to support bringing the monthly cost of fixed fees for solar customers in line with other residential customers?

I oppose penalizing rooftop solar customers with mandatory demand charges and other punitive rate designs. SRP’s solar rate plans need to be simplified and customers should be incentivized to adopt solar. Solar customers should not pay more in fixed fees than customers who are not trying to help the environment.

  1. The 21st century utility will need to integrate high levels of renewable energy with energy storage to meet customer demand. If elected, how would you put SRP on a path to integrate renewable resources with energy storage?

Investment in energy storage technology must go hand in hand with our investment in variable generation renewables throughout the 21st century. As we build out grid-scale energy storage, we must also incentivize residential energy storage. Generation and storage will become increasingly distributed, and SRP must have leaders who can navigate this transformation.

  1. To vote in the SRP election, a customer must be a registered voter and a landowner living within certain boundaries of SRP’s territory. Furthermore, the voting is acreage based. If elected, what will you do to remove barriers for SRP customers that want to vote in SRP elections?

I support restructuring much like a co-operative, where each customer gets an equal vote.

Mario J. Herrera

Did not answer the questionnaire.

District Board – Voting Division 5

James A. Moule

  1. SRP’s 2035 Sustainability Goals have been widely lauded due to commitments such as building the necessary infrastructure for electric vehicles, reducing water waste and diverting solid waste from landfills. If elected, what would you do to make sure SRP’s commitment to these goals remain on track? Do you support SRP moving further and faster to reduce carbon emissions? 

SRP has been moving very slowly to divest in fossil fuel power generation and embrace renewable energy power generation.  That is one of the things that I want to influence.  I want to move SRP onto a much faster replacement schedule for replacing fossil fuel with renewable energy, principally solar with storage and wind.  I have address the SRP BoD about this issue.

  1. Despite the benefits that solar brings to our environment and our health, since the SRP board approved demand charges and higher fixed monthly charges for new residential solar customers in 2015, SRP customers have installed solar at a much slower rate than APS and other utilities. If elected, what would you do to change SRP’s policies to encourage more customers to install rooftop solar? If elected, would you vote to support bringing the monthly cost of fixed fees for solar customers in line with other residential customers?

The problem with installing rooftop solar in SRP territory is their “solar” billing schedule.  It appears to be designed to intentionally make it difficult for homeowners to cost effectively install solar on their roofs.  I will push SRP to change this billing schedule to make it cost effective for homeowners to install rooftop solar.

  1. The 21st century utility will need to integrate high levels of renewable energy with energy storage to meet customer demand. If elected, how would you put SRP on a path to integrate renewable resources with energy storage?

Yes, I am aware that SRP’s fixed rate fee is excessive.  However, the entire billing schedule is designed to discourage homeowner rooftop solar.  I want to change the entire billing structure, not just the fixed rate fee.

  1. To vote in the SRP election, a customer must be a registered voter and a landowner living within certain boundaries of SRP’s territory. Furthermore, the voting is acreage based. If elected, what will you do to remove barriers for SRP customers that want to vote in SRP elections? 

SRP has used companies like Nextera as PPA providers in the past.  This procurement method has provide a fast-track path to clean energy with SRP providing minimal initial funding.  I would recommend that SRP continue with that procurement method for the near future.

Stephen H. Williams

  1. SRP’s 2035 Sustainability Goals have been widely lauded due to commitments such as building the necessary infrastructure for electric vehicles, reducing water waste and diverting solid waste from landfills. If elected, what would you do to make sure SRP’s commitment to these goals remain on track? Do you support SRP moving further and faster to reduce carbon emissions? 

I’m a proud Arizona farmer. The work that I do helps feed and clothe people, and it keeps me close to the land. As an elected SRP board leader, I’ve brought that passion for the land and water, to the board room. My mission is to keep the air, land and water clean for our community, and to give SRP’s rate payers to lowest cost water and power available.

You may recall, that over the past two SRP pricing processes, that I have been a Pro-Solar voter, when a lot of other folks weren’t. In being re-elected I plan on continuing my efforts for the promotion of inexpensive power, including solar.

  1. Despite the benefits that solar brings to our environment and our health, since the SRP board approved demand charges and higher fixed monthly charges for new residential solar customers in 2015, SRP customers have installed solar at a much slower rate than APS and other utilities. If elected, what would you do to change SRP’s policies to encourage more customers to install rooftop solar? If elected, would you vote to support bringing the monthly cost of fixed fees for solar customers in line with other residential customers?

As you may recall, one board member and I were the ones that voted against the negative solar policies in the 2015 SRP Price Process. Because it wasn’t any good for the customer. SRP didn’t need to do that. Then in 2019’s Pricing Process, the solar pricing got a little better but still not good enough, I voted against SRP managements plan against home solar too. If I am re-elected I continue to support fair prices for all SRP customers. Not giving advantages to one group and not the other.

  1. The 21st century utility will need to integrate high levels of renewable energy with energy storage to meet customer demand. If elected, how would you put SRP on a path to integrate renewable resources with energy storage?

 The quickest way to adopt battery storage, for customers, and large scale use, is for market prices to drop. I voted for SRP’s plan last year to build one of the largest battery storage facilities in the United States. We will continue to do more of those projects, as prices drop, and to replace gas-fired units that have met the end of life use.

  1. To vote in the SRP election, a customer must be a registered voter and a landowner living within certain boundaries of SRP’s territory. Furthermore, the voting is acreage based. If elected, what will you do to remove barriers for SRP customers that want to vote in SRP elections?

I like the idea of taking the At-Large board members and giving them their own district voting boundaries outside of the existing voting area.

District Board – Voting Division 7

John P. Minieri

Did not answer the questionnaire.

Keith B. Woods

  1. SRP’s 2035 Sustainability Goals have been widely lauded due to commitments such as building the necessary infrastructure for electric vehicles, reducing water waste and diverting solid waste from landfills. If elected, what would you do to make sure SRP’s commitment to these goals remain on track? Do you support SRP moving further and faster to reduce carbon emissions? 

It took a collective effort by the 14 publicly elected board directors, the President, and new CEO, to put SRP’s 2035 plan together. As the past SRP Governance chairman, I led the CEO search process that identified the qualities that customers should expect from a manager, and located Mike Hummel, SRP’s new CEO. We would not have been able to organize SRP’s new direction with renewables, conservation, and the adoption of battery storage programs without his cooperation. As SRP’s Power chairman, I have played a part in moving the electric and water utility in the right “clean energy” direction. In 2019, the SRP Board approved 1,000 megawatts of new utility-scale solar energy to SRP’s system (by the end of FY 2025), the creation of the largest battery storage system in Arizona, and began the decommissioning of the largest coal fired power plant in the United States, Navajo Generating Station.

To insure continued progress toward a greener, affordable, energy future, it’s very important that the public vote for experienced leadership, who have the business EQ to listen to customers, cause-related organizations, and collaborate with elected officials and management effectively.

In the past 5 years, everyone has seen a dramatic decrease in solar equipment prices, especially with Utility Scale Solar. I have been leading the charge in adopting more renewables at an accelerated rate, as prices continue the downward price curve. It fits with my goals of helping deliver clean, affordable, water and power to SRP customers.

  1. Despite the benefits that solar brings to our environment and our health, since the SRP board approved demand charges and higher fixed monthly charges for new residential solar customers in 2015, SRP customers have installed solar at a much slower rate than APS and other utilities. If elected, what would you do to change SRP’s policies to encourage more customers to install rooftop solar? If elected, would you vote to support bringing the monthly cost of fixed fees for solar customers in line with other residential customers?

Minimizing the “pay back” period for a residential solar system is the trigger for expanding the adoption of solar in the SRP service territory. The market prices for solar systems have gone down dramatically over the past several years - that’s a big help. But SRP’s “buy-back” of solar power should be paid at a rate higher than the 2.2 cents per kilowatt hour than a majority of SRP board directors approved last year.

In my proposal at the 2019 SRP Pricing Process I offered two incentives: 1) That solar “buy-back” rate be pricing at the median wholesale price that SRP buys all generation. Which by my math came out to 6.7 cents per kilowatt hour. (This was not passed). 2) My second proposal, which was passed, was the increase to SRP’s current battery storage program incentive from $150 per kilowatt hour to $300 per kilowatt hour of storage capacity, up to a maximum of $3,600 per system.

The solar industry has been in favor of having a flat customer fee for all customers, to reimburse the not-for-profit utility for transmission and generation costs. I have also been supportive of that. But, there is a challenge in how to adopt a flat fee, without impacting low, fixed income families.

  1. The 21st century utility will need to integrate high levels of renewable energy with energy storage to meet customer demand. If elected, how would you put SRP on a path to integrate renewable resources with energy storage?

I support the integration of low cost, large scale solar and battery storage projects, because they are clean, easy to run, and lower in price than most traditional forms of electric generation on the market today. As chairman of SRP’s Power Committee I have promoted a measured strategy that onboards new renewables and battery storage in sync with off-boarding coal fired generation over the next 15 years. This approach helps in two ways - 1) By “dollar-cost-averaging” the purchase of new solar and battery storage technology over the next 15 years will allow SRP to ride the downward technology price trend, and 2) Which gives SRP enough “runway” to off-board fossil fuel plants over the next several years so that ratepayers will not be paying higher electric rates due to charges against stranded costs.

  1. To vote in the SRP election, a customer must be a registered voter and a landowner living within certain boundaries of SRP’s territory. Furthermore, the voting is acreage based. If elected, what will you do to remove barriers for SRP customers that want to vote in SRP elections?

I have been a proponent of expanding voting to all SRP customers, by allowing every metered SRP customer the right to vote. Allowing them to vote for the 4 SRP At-Large Board Directors. All other voting districts and representatives would remain the same.

District Board – Voting Division 9

Robert C. Arnett

Robert has indicated he is interested in responding but was unable to meet our deadline. We will include his responses when we receive them.

Kathy L. Mohr‐Almeida

  1. SRP’s 2035 Sustainability Goals have been widely lauded due to commitments such as building the necessary infrastructure for electric vehicles, reducing water waste and diverting solid waste from landfills. If elected, what would you do to make sure SRP’s commitment to these goals remain on track? Do you support SRP moving further and faster to reduce carbon emissions? 

The mitigation of the climate crisis has been my passion for the last decade. I support SRP reducing carbon emissions faster than what is currently proposed because we are in a climate emergency and need to accomplish zero emissions as soon as possible, ideally by the end of this decade. If I am elected for this seat on the SRP Board of Directors, I will do everything in my power to push for aggressive carbon reduction goals. The other goals SRP has committed related to renewable energy and energy storage are also important steps we need to boost. The reduction of Arizona’s carbon footprint is a responsibility I take very seriously. 

  1. Despite the benefits that solar brings to our environment and our health, since the SRP board approved demand charges and higher fixed monthly charges for new residential solar customers in 2015, SRP customers have installed solar at a much slower rate than APS and other utilities. If elected, what would you do to change SRP’s policies to encourage more customers to install rooftop solar? If elected, would you vote to support bringing the monthly cost of fixed fees for solar customers in line with other residential customers?

I am frustrated by the demand charge SRP imposes on solar customers, as well as the disparity between how much SRP charges for a kilowatt and the significantly smaller rate SRP compensate solar customers per kilowatt. These factors need to be more equitable. Solar energy, especially in Arizona, needs to be our dominant form of energy production and it must be economically viable for Arizona’s families. Right now it isn’t and I am going to make a concerted effort as a board member to make clean energy production and storage achievable for everyone. 

  1. The 21st century utility will need to integrate high levels of renewable energy with energy storage to meet customer demand. If elected, how would you put SRP on a path to integrate renewable resources with energy storage?

I support a substantive fiscal incentive for families who opt to purchase a home battery for energy storage. I also believe it is critical that SRP build ample utility scale battery storage facilities. Some predictions about the environmental future in Phoenix suggest that we will reach temperatures which will threaten SRP’s customers’ vital interests. We must diversify so that battery storage will be a peak demand resource and reduce the load needed for the grid, which will help keep people safe. 

  1. To vote in the SRP election, a customer must be a registered voter and a landowner living within certain boundaries of SRP’s territory. Furthermore, the voting is acreage based. If elected, what will you do to remove barriers for SRP customers that want to vote in SRP elections?

SRP hasn’t updated their voter rosters since 1937, which is absurd. Nearly 40 percent of SRP customers cannot vote because they live outside of the certain boundaries mentioned in the question. The vote should be one meter one vote, and include all customers, not just property owners. This is where I stand and will remain on this issue until the voting process is equitable. 

 

The candidate questionnaire was paid for by Environment Arizona, a project of Environment America. Environment Arizona is a non-profit organization working for clean air, clean water and open space. This website is not affiliated with Salt River Project or any SRP candidate(s) or their campaign. Please email SRPVote@environmentarizona.org with any questions.