Energy is the lifeblood of the economy. Arizona’s population and energy use are projected to grow for the foreseeable future and our economic prosperity is closely tied to the availability of reliable and affordable supplies of energy. While energy supply, energy demand and the natural environment are at a significant point of conflict, the effect of this tension can be mitigated through a collaborative effort among all stakeholders which can help create balance.
The need for collaboration is at the heart of why the Arizona Technology Council accepted the responsibility of leadership for the Arizona Energy Consortium (AEC) in July, 2011. The effort was established under the auspices of the City of Phoenix related to a grant from the Federal Department of Labor to establish strategies for integrating the workforce needs of targeted green energy industries in Arizona. The City, as part of the central region, was awarded a large portion of the Arizona State Energy Sector Partnership (SESP) grant that agreed to establish an energy consortium to define the workforce needs in the energy arena. Thus, the Arizona Energy Consortium was founded.
City leaders quickly realized they were addressing issues that went well beyond city borders and the workforce. When the City of Phoenix approached the Council about taking AEC under its wing, it made perfect sense to us. The Council has members from every side of the energy equation, from traditional production to renewable and energy conservation. We represent a statewide neutral ground that’s not tied to a particular technology, and can embody the entire energy industry.
Today, the AEC is comprised of more than 250 members from the state’s diverse energy sectors and is co-chaired by Michelle De Blasi, a partner with the law firm of Quarles & Brady LLP and chair of its Solar Energy Law Team, and Christopher Davey, executive director of EnviroMission. Constituents from city and state governments, utilities, law firms, conservation groups, private industry and universities are all working together to get real work done and break down the silos that have long existed in Arizona.
One of the charters of AEC is to serve as a supportive venue for current and new members locating or expanding their businesses within the state, as well as a repository for reliable information related to the energy industry. In addition, AEC is providing meaningful input towards the development of a long-term Energy Roadmap to strongly promote both economic development initiatives and continued technological innovation across the state. The end result will be similar to the long-term bioscience roadmap initiated by the Flinn Foundation designed to make the state’s life sciences sector globally competitive.
Can we achieve energy independence in our lifetime? Given Arizona’s unique abundance of sunshine, we certainly have an advantage on the production side of the equation in the renewable energy sector and are well positioned to become an exporter of energy. Arizona possesses many of the essential elements necessary to become a global leader in energy, but must strengthen its will, focus, collaboration and messaging, to achieve this goal. With everyone working together to raise all boats, AEC is taking this holistic approach.
For more information, visit aztechcouncil.org/committees/aec.
Steven G. Zylstra is president and chief executive officer of the Arizona Technology Council.