Would AZ clean energy measure mean higher energy bills, closing of nuclear power plant?

Posted: Updated:
A clean energy measure could have a huge impact on Arizona if it passes. (Source: 3TV/CBS 5) A clean energy measure could have a huge impact on Arizona if it passes. (Source: 3TV/CBS 5)
Three units at Palo Verde create about 36 percent of Arizona's electricity. (Source: 3TV/CBS 5) Three units at Palo Verde create about 36 percent of Arizona's electricity. (Source: 3TV/CBS 5)
The future of the Palo Verde Generating Station would be in doubt if a clean energy measure passes, the plant's VP said. (Source: 3TV/CBS 5) The future of the Palo Verde Generating Station would be in doubt if a clean energy measure passes, the plant's VP said. (Source: 3TV/CBS 5)
If voters elect the clean air initiative, research from Palo Verde shows Arizona would have to pay an estimated $15 billion to meet the mandate's guidelines. (Source: 3TV/CBS 5) If voters elect the clean air initiative, research from Palo Verde shows Arizona would have to pay an estimated $15 billion to meet the mandate's guidelines. (Source: 3TV/CBS 5)
TONOPAH, AZ (3TV/CBS 5) -

Fifty miles west of Phoenix sits the biggest power producer in the U.S., the Palo Verde Generating Station.

Our cameras got a rare look inside one of its power reactors during a recent refueling outage.

Nuclear power is a source of energy that virtually produces no air pollution, unlike coal, oil and natural gas.

Three units at Palo Verde create about 36 percent of Arizona's electricity, but according to the site’s vice president, Jack Cadogan, the future of Palo Verde is in up in the air. 

“We would ultimately shut down,” said Cadogan.

If a renewable energy measure gets on the ballot and is approved by voters this year, Cadogan says this plant could close within a decade.

[RELATED: New Arizona law aims to buck clean energy ballot plan]

Arizona Public Service, or APS, runs Palo Verde, and they're fighting the initiative that would require utilities to get half their electricity from renewable sources like solar and wind by 2030.

“Our estimates show that people’s electrical bill would double. And you can see this with California. California is on a similar mandate right now," said Cadogan.

[SPECIAL SECTION: Arizona Politics]

"I would be skeptical of that," said Wesley Herche, associate director of ASU's Global Security Initiative.

Herche is an energy policy expert and former intelligence officer. He's researched other states that have followed a similar energy plan and does not expect a rate hike.

"When you look at Arizona's renewable energy portfolio standard that was written in 2006, from then to today, solar has gotten four times cheaper, four times. It's remarkable. It's now the cheapest form of energy that can be generated anywhere on the planet," said Herche.

So what's the problem with wind or solar?

"What will happen is when the sun stops shining, we will actually have to run gas plants all night long, instead of Palo Verde as a clean air," said Cadogan.

[RELATED: How the nation's largest nuclear power plant stays cool in Arizona's summer heat (June 23, 2016)]

And Cadogan argues this bill doesn't tackle the real culprit behind air pollution.

"The biggest piece is from cars, it’s from the transportation and the ozone they generate, and none of that is really addressed," said Cadogan.

If voters elect the clean air initiative, research from Palo Verde shows Arizona would have to pay an estimated $15 billion to meet the mandate's guidelines.

"The difficulty of that is we’re going to produce a lot of excess energy during the daytime, there’s going to be no place to put that, and that creates negative pricing, and that negative pricing basically means that we may have to pay other people, during the day, other states, to take our electricity," said Cadogan.

"I think the western region as a whole, as we start to move toward more renewables as a country, and as we start to diversify our energy mix in general, could definitely benefit from being able to share the excess energy production across state lines. That's an issue I think we're going to have to tackle no matter what," said Herche.

For this measure to make it on the ballot, 250,000 signatures would be needed by July 5.

Click/tap here to download the free azfamily mobile app.

Copyright 2018 KPHO/KTVK (KPHO Broadcasting Corporation). All rights reserved.