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February 12, 2014

Host: Ted Simons

AZ Technology and Innovation: Arcology

  |   Video
  • A Phoenix man has come up with a different way to construct a building. We’ll show you how Brian Korsedal’s company “Arcology Now” is piecing together buildings from electrical conduit beams that are numbered and put together according to a design created on a computer.
Category: Technology   |   Keywords: technology, innovation, computer, design, electrical, phoenix, arcology, buildings,

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Ted Simons: A quick trip to the hardware store and a 3-D printer are turning a Phoenix man into an architect of the future. In tonight's focus on Arizona technology and innovation, producer Shana Fischer and photographer Steve Snow introduce us to a man who hopes to change the way homes are built.

Brian Korsedal: Imagine this bar is an arrow. This is the head end of the bar --

Shana Fischer: Brian Korsedal leading a group of volunteers for a 21st century barn raising of sorts. Today they are making an arch that would sit atop a runway for a fashion show. His company, ARCOLOGY now, is able to take any design and make a large-scale structure out of it. The software Brian uses recognizes any shape. A 3-D printer will then spit out a desk top model. Brian works with a 3-D artist to create the designs.

Brian Korsedal: Put in whatever shape you want, software generates a structure to match the – and then our software generates all of the stickers that we put on electrical conduit, cut it, form it at my house, and pull together at parties.

Shana Fischer: Stickers have assembly instructions on them. After he places the stickers on the conduit, Brian punches holes in the ends of each piece to bolt them all together. He lays out all of the pieces in the front yard to assemble and it winds up looking like a giant set of tinker toys. All of the volunteers today are from the arts or tech community.

Alex Fitch: I've always been very much into, you know, connecter sets, Legos, erector sets, even comes down to putting IKEA furniture together. I like, you know, doing stuff that incorporates the use of getting my hands dirty and a little bit of ingenuity.

Shana Fischer: With the help of the volunteers, today’s art project take about four hours to build. The hardest part for the volunteers is learning the assembly code but that only takes about minutes. ARCOLOGY now is in the startup stage but Brian has big plans for the future.

Brian Korsedal: Main goal to be doing basically artistic houses in a box where you put all of the parts of the house into a shipping container and ship it out to the location and you and all of your friends show up on the spot and assemble the house, it will have electrical, Plumbing, floors, windows, doors, everything there in the box.

Shana Fischer: Brian said he is pleased that the structure sparked conversations about sustainability and new ways to build. At the end of the day, he is in awe that his dream is coming true.

Brian Korsedal: It’s a pretty amazing feeling. I did that. I'm the only one in the world that did that. It is a pretty interesting feeling, yeah.

Ted Simons: Korsedal says his structures could also be used as emergency shelters during hurricanes, tornadoes, and other natural disasters.

Legislative Update

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  • Ben Giles from the Arizona Capitol Times will give us the latest news from the State Capitol in our weekly legislative update.
  • Ben Giles - Journalist, Arizona Capitol Times
Category: Legislature   |   Keywords: legislative, update, legislature, state, capitol,

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Ted Simons: Good evening and welcome to "Arizona Horizon." I'm Ted Simons. Senate president Andy Biggs is calling for an external audit of child protective services. Here with details on that and more in our weekly political update is Ben Giles of the "Arizona Capitol Times." Good to see you again. Thank you for joining us.

Ben Giles: Thank you.

Ted Simons: External audit of something that doesn't exist anymore. What is going on here?

Ben Giles: Biggs said all along, when it became clear of the 6,500+ uninvestigated cases by CPS, that he wants a fresh pair of eyes to look at the agency and look at the problems it's faced, not just in the past year, but he contends for the last 30 years. So that as the governor and the legislature move forward in this session in creating a new agency in place of CPS, they can actually fix the root cause of the problem, not just the latest problem that the agency has faced.

Ted Simons: Is this the nose to toes thing he has been talking about.

Ben Giles: Exactly. He wants a comprehensive audit, but not from someone within the state of Arizona. He wants to bring in an outside expert. Frankly there is a lack of trust that an internal audit, be it by someone within CPS or anything, anyone else within Arizona government won't have the same impact as an external audit would.

Ted Simons: And this is the -- an audit would include, I would imagine, recommended changes.

Ben Giles: Exactly. It would -- as Biggs is asking, it would also look at best practices in other states. So we can bring in some of what other states are doing to help protect their children. And incorporate it here. And his argument is that the governor and the legislature shouldn't be so swift to move forward to create a new agency until the root cause of the problems and until these recommendations from an expert consultant outside of Arizona are given to them.

Ted Simons: How much would this cost?

Ben Giles: He is asking for $250,000, a supplemental appropriation that would go into effect this fiscal year. And he is also asking that the department of administration wave its normal procurement procedure, normal bidding process so that this can happen as quickly as possible.

Ted Simons: I was going to ask you about a time table here. That along with the idea that he wants this, how badly does he want this? Enough to where he slows everything else down until he gets this?

Ben Giles: That was the concern of some democrats in a committee today, public safety -- or the public safety committee, I believe, where this bill actually passed in the Senate that president Biggs is this just an attempt to hinder or slow down the governor's efforts to pass what could be a tens of millions of dollar proposal to reshape CPS into this new division of child safety and family services. He insists, no, I'm not trying to hold up that process, but he does want this to help guide it and that begs the question, well, when can you have this outside audit done if the governor and her staff are planning on passing legislation to create a new CPS this session, perhaps by May or June?

Ted Simons: Indeed, if you are going this far, want the audit, recommendations, best practices, what if you get them and folks running the new agency, that's all right. We're doing it our way.

Ben Giles: That has been Biggs problem all along. Not going too far down the road fixing CPS one way when maybe that is not the best way. The bill did pass unanimously with democrat and republican support. There are some democrats who also think yes, we are not sure that we trust someone within Arizona to take a look at this problem with open eyes, with new eyes and say here is what we really need to change. So, I think across both party lines, there are people who are receptive to this idea. It's just a matter of can it fit in with the governor's time table? And will she be okay with it going forward as she tries to move swiftly to get the CPS issue resolved.

Ted Simons: We will see where that goes. What is going on with the superintendent of public instruction, apparently sending out robo calls inviting one and all to get out of public instructio. What is going on here?

Ben Giles: The superintendent was in a robo call that went out to I think about 15,000 people in Phoenix and Tucson. Essentially letting people know that there is this program in Arizona called empowerment scholarship accounts. It allows students who have special needs, students who are in foster care, or students at poor performing schools to get taxpayer dollars to go and find a new school, perhaps a private school, and to attend there, rather than the school where maybe they're getting a failing education.

Ted Simons: And this was -- this was a robo call that invited people to look at a Goldwater Institute?

Ben Giles: A web site run by the Goldwater Institute, which supports this program, but the problem is, and the uproar has been particularly with democrats who say why is the superintendent of public instruction, and they interpret that as the superintendent of public schools, pushing for students, Arizona students in public schools to instead go to private schools? He did issue an apology late this afternoon. Just saying, I'm sorry for anyone who was hurt by what I said, who thinks I don't appreciate what folks are doing in our public schools. But just yesterday, he told The Arizona Republic that I think that my job is to defend all of our students in public schools, not necessarily the schools themselves.

Ted Simons: Indeed, The Arizona Republic, I think -- channel broke this story.

Ben Giles: He did.

Ted Simons: Again, he is -- he is -- that was an interesting response, because you are the superintendent of public instruction. Yet he says that the private schools are part of that public instruction?

Ben Giles: He at least thinks that should be an option for students who maybe aren't getting the education that they need at a public school. This is a program that has been, and is continuing to be beefed up in the legislature. It's a favorite of some of the GOP lawmakers in the Senate and House. They expanded it slightly last year. I believe they're working on other measures now to expand it again. It is popular, but it is also immensely unpopular with a lot of democrats and public school teachers who see taxpayer dollars not going to them but to the private institutions.

Ted Simons: The Tom Horne campaign financing -- are we hearing anything other than the prosecution saying that you coordinated when you shouldn't have coordinated and then saying we didn't coordinate…

Ben Giles: Yeah, we had our reporter Jeremy Duda in there today, but from what I could tell from him tweeting in the courtroom, essentially the same flat-out denial that we have heard all along, that we heard before the Yavpai county attorney decided that no, we do think that you illegally coordinated with Kathleen Wynn's group and that Tom Horne you need to pay back those campaign funds that were used to make that coordination. And beyond that, there didn't seem to be too much said on the witness stand by either Tom Horne or Kathleen Wynn just that no, of course, we didn't do this. These conversations, these phone records that prosecutors have, those were just either personal conversations or -- in one instance, they were saying that they had a conversation about a real estate deal, not this campaign ad that came out late in the election that attacked Tom Horne's opponent.

Ted Simons: Very interesting. Both sides are adamant that there was -- one side says constant communication, no evidence of real estate was discussed. Other side saying absolutely no coordination, real estate and other -- all right. We will keep on top of that as well. Good to have you here. Thank you for joining us.

Ben Giles: Thanks, Ted.

Renewable Energy Standards

  |   Video
  • The Arizona Corporation Commission has decided to take another look at renewable energy standards, which requires that 15% of energy generated in the state come from renewable sources by 2025. Thirty percent of that energy must come from small energy generation sources, mostly rooftop solar. Arizona Public Service Company has asked the commission to end that requirement because the method of counting those sources has been eliminated. Solar panel installers fear it’s an attempt to eliminate the competition on the part of APS. Amanda Ormond, managing director of the Western Grid Group and former director of the Arizona Energy Office, will discuss the possible rule changes.
  • Amanda Ormond - Managing Director, Western Grid Group
Category: Energy   |   Keywords: energy, renewable, standards, public, service, solar,

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Ted Simons: The Arizona corporation commission wants to reconsider aspects of the state's renewable energy standards. Here to tell us what it means to Arizona's goal of increasingly generating energy from renewable sources is Amanda Ormond, managing director of the Western Grid Group and former director of the Arizona Energy Office. It is good to have you here.

Amanda Ormond: Thank you.

Ted Simons: Boy, this could get really complicated. Let's try to figure this out. Is the corporation commission reconsidering the renewable energy standard in TOTO or just a part of it?

Amanda Ormond: So, what they've said in a hearing a couple of days ago that they are looking at the distributed energy portion. The portion where the utilities are required to have a certain amount of solar rooftop systems. So, we have a 15 percent by 25 standard, and 30 percent of that has to be the small distributed energy projects.

Ted Simons: Mostly rooftop solar, windmills, water mills and these sorts of things?

Amanda Ormond: Absolutely.

Ted Simons: APS compliance, correct me if I am wrong, for residential is good for the next couple of years.

Amanda Ormond: Right. The great news about solar Arizona, this renewable energy standard has worked amazingly well. We have solar all over the state and we're generating clean, we're generating stable price electricity. The problem is for companies like APS. They look at these little solar systems or big ones and say this is competitors to us because these systems are generating electricity, which is their monopoly business.

Ted Simons: Distributed generation requirements, these are the credits, these RECs or is that a whole different ball game?

Amanda Ormond: It is a different ball game. A solar system produces a renewable energy certificate. So I'll say a certificate for every kilowatt hour of -- the utilities and -- corporation has set up a system that the certificates are used to show compliance. If they have enough certificates and have produced enough solar energy they can say we are in compliance with the program. Utilities bought the certificates by providing individuals with incentive payments to put solar on your roof. Solar has gotten so cheap and it has been so easy to deploy that APS is no longer giving incentives. So, they're not buying the RECs anymore. If they don’t buy the certificates, they don’t have the certificates. If they don't have the certificates, how do they in the future show that they are meeting the standard? So, it really -- I look at it as a compliance issue, because it's details. The other thing that is important to know about the certificates is that companies use them to meet internal mandates and they actually can be sold on the open market. They have a retail value.

Ted Simons: My goodness. That takes you into a whole different arena. You're right, it seems like a compliance and measurement issue. Why can't someone figure out some way for APS instead of using the certificates, going to a monitor, a meter, and saying we're doing this, we're doing that certificate or no?

Amanda Ormond: Right. Ted, so, the -- the -- the attorney at the corporation commission had put out a recommended opinion order on this issue, and what she had proposed was a track and record system. Essentially, the utility would not own the RECs for solar systems that they didn't have any part of but would track how much solar is being deployed in the state and could use that to show compliance. APS came back and said, well, what about -- they propose doing away with the distributed energy requirement. The commission at the hearing I think went one better and said let's open up the entire renewable energy standard rule and see if we need to change things. To me, this seems a little premature because we -- if it is truly an accounting issue, why do we need to open up the standard?

Ted Simons: Right.

Amanda Ormond: And as you mentioned, the energy office, Department of Commerce, just opening up the rule sent shock waves through the business industry. People, businesses say I'm not sure if Arizona is such a good place to invest because I don't know what the policy landscape is going to be. Business wants certainty in policy and this creates ripples.

Ted Simons: Current policy emphasizes the rooftop solar, smaller sources, windmills, water mills, whole nine yards. That's part of this requirement. What APS is saying and corporation commission is now saying, let's look again at the requirement. I would imagine critics are saying if that's the case, as you mentioned, some of the companies that put up the rooftop solar and windmills and water mills, they will go to a big power plant and we're all out of business.

Amanda Ormond: That is one of the criticisms. When they created the renewable energy standard, they did a carve out for distributed energy for just that reason. We want to maximize solar in all kinds of ways, and so let's make sure that we are requiring that big solar gets built, little solar gets built and that type of thing. So, we have set the landscape. We set the renewable energy standard. We said that there is going to be a certain amount of distributed generation. There is a plethora of businesses out there that built their business model on this long term policy that is supposed to go through 2025. It is of concern when we look at a fundamental policy like that and changing it.

Ted Simons: When you mention a lot of businesses are doing that. How many? Talk about the solar industry in Arizona and how so much of it is again based on what has been going on at the corporation commission and at APS.

Amanda Ormond: So, the -- because of the policy at the state we have seen a lot of businesses that have started to operate in the state and put up photovoltaic systems and hot water systems and windmills as well. The solar jobs report just came out for this year that is done by a group called The Solar Foundation, and we are number two in solar jobs in the country - number one being California. But we are slightly down this year from last year. My prediction is that if we keep monkeying with all of the standards, we are going to keep going down. Businesses are going to have a harder time selling their systems and staying in business.

Ted Simons: Has that argument been made? I would imagine that argument probably has been made as decibels we can't even comprehend.

Amanda Ormond: Right.

Ted Simons: Does the corporation commission do you think understand that just saying what they did -- we're discussing this now because this is a pretty complicated topic and a lot of folks are thinking that the entire energy standard is going to be completely overhauled and that is not the case?

Amanda Ormond: We don't know what the case is. This is a regulatory process and we have to see what the outcome is going to be. The corporation commission has an investigation open, docket open on innovation. They are going to be looking at new ways to regulate the utilities, what kind of impacts distributed generation is going to have. This is a very far-reaching look. To me that's where we really need to be concentrating, because if it isn't solar energy, there is going to be another technology that the utilities look at and say wait, that's cutting into my market share as well. We don't want to thwart all of the new, clean, stable-priced technologies. We need to look at the fundamentals. If APS is losing money because the competitors are coming into the marketplace, what do we do to incent APS to be the solar capital of the world? What do we do to ensure that if we want solar to thrive in the state and we know customers overwhelmingly support solar development, what do we need to do to align the business model with what people want and what is in the public interest?

Ted Simons: We discussed this on the show before. Fascinating discussion when you get into it because it talks about the future of energy companies as they exist. And comparisons have been made and I think reasonably so to MaBell. It sounds as they APS has been such a steward and has been here for so long, and, yet, it sounds as if the world is starting to catch up and pass by. I mean, are we looking at the end of an era as far as major utilities are concerned?

Amanda Ormond: I don't think so yet. Maybe far in the future, but not yet. But the concerns that APS has raised have been raised by the utility industry around the country. This is not particular to Arizona. Utilities have said that distributed energy, any kind, is -- is going to put the utilities into a depth spiral. Those are their terms, “death spiral.” There is a lot of hype out there about how much trouble this could cause utilities and it is something that we need to look at. My perspective, this is not a crisis issue yet. We have time to give thoughtful deliberation to this issue, and it is going to affect the long term economic development and health of the state. We really need to take the time and collect information from multiple parties, compare what other states are doing, bring in certified smart people to talk about what is going on in other states, and really vet this before we take any, you know, drastic action or any action at all.

Ted Simons: Well, this great information. I'm really glad you joined us to help make some sense of it. Thank you so much. We appreciate it.

Amanda Ormond: You're welcome.