Arizona Thrives: What clean energy means for the future of Arizona’s economy

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Apr 23, 2021, 3:25 PM | Updated: Apr 28, 2021, 9:54 am


Arizona is in a unique position to create a path forward as the world’s economies make the transition to clean energy. A group of stakeholders that represent an economy-wide, statewide approach recently launched Arizona Thrives.

Arizonans have had to think about surviving and thriving in an arid environment for millennium. Sustaining a rapidly growing economy, where the ability to thrive is not guaranteed, requires being adaptable and resourceful. Arizona has abundant sunshine and a growing economy. We have a rich cultural history and appreciation for the diversity of our state – mountains, rivers, deserts, forests, growing urban centers.

Being successful in Arizona may hold clues on how to advance the clean energy transition in others states and regions.

One challenge, not unique to Arizona, is the lack of leadership to advance clean energy solutions across the economy. Decision-making is dispersed and the issues often cross sectors of the economy.

Done right, we believe Arizona can serve as an incubator for innovation in policy, programs and technology for reducing carbon emission across the economy in a way that it is fair and inclusive of rural, tribal and underserved urban communities.

Two years ago, The Nature Conservancy convened leaders to develop a strategy and framework to advance clean air and clean energy in Arizona. Last year, that group expanded to include sectors and voices from across the state.

Arizona Thrives was created to provide that leadership and change the conversation to focus on solutions. We recognize that a successful transition needs to result in a dynamic and sustainable economy that benefits all Arizonans and require collective effort. That is exactly what Arizona Thrives aims to do.

There is urgency to reducing emissions to clean our air, keep our communities livable and for water security if we are to avoid the worst consequences as carbon and other pollutants accumulate in the atmosphere for centuries.

People and companies want reliability, affordability and certainty. This is made more challenging since no one entity can achieve this alone. A well-coordinated approach can reduce risks, lower costs, and accelerate learning with the goals of strengthening the economy, improving the livability of communities and sustaining a healthy environment.

A decade ago, renewable energy had to be subsidized, electric cars were unaffordable and today technology has made both more affordable. A case can also be made that Arizona can benefit economically – and equally important make our communities healthier, more resilient — by being leaders in innovations that work for people, the economy and the environment. Success will require developing a shared understanding and commitment across economic sectors. The complexity of the transition means working in new ways to develop innovation in technology, policy and practices.

Arizona has the opportunity to attract more high-wage jobs, improve the air we breathe, reduce the impact of heat to improve the livability of communities, increase water security, protect Arizona’s natural beauty, and sustain agriculture and energy independence. If we fail to act, human health, economic prosperity and the environment will suffer due to reduced water supplies, hotter cites, poorer air quality which will make existing inequities worse in both urban and rural areas, including the twenty Native American tribes.

It is not the responsibility of one – all of us are needed. Now is the time to act as interests align during a period of change.

The Nature Conservancy


Patrick J. Graham, State Director, The nature Conservancy

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Arizona Thrives: What clean energy means for the future of Arizona’s economy