Investing in Arizona’s Resiliency and Energy Independence

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By Jason Lowry

September 6, 2023

Record-setting summer high temperatures and extreme winter snowfall come with a lot of challenges for communities and businesses, including their energy use and costs. Responding to these increasing challenges requires additional resources.

One resource is the Inflation Reduction Act, which was signed into law one year ago. This legislation will invest billions of dollars over the next decade to increase our state’s energy and economic resilience and independence as well as to help Arizona businesses, utilities, and communities lower their energy costs.

Bringing Renewable Energy to Small Businesses

The IRA does this by providing tax incentives and grants to help Arizonans—including small businesses, nonprofits, and rural and tribal communities—use less energy and access more renewable energy.

As the country’s largest coalition of locally owned businesses and the state’s Rural Development Council, Local First Arizona believes the IRA will provide once-in-a-lifetime opportunities for Arizona communities to invest in their infrastructure, save money, and protect natural resources, while contributing to a thriving and more resilient economy.

How will the IRA do this?

Before this legislation passed, towns, nonprofits, and tribes couldn’t benefit from tax incentives to lower their energy costs through energy efficiency projects or on-site solar. Now, they are eligible to receive direct payments from the federal government worth the full value of the credits.

This is a game-changer because these incentives are available to all. Arizona towns, tribes, and nonprofits can plan projects that will save significant amounts of money without worrying about competing with each other and potentially losing out on funding, as is common with grants.

The savings generated by these renewable energy and energy efficiency projects will then free up funding for communities and nonprofits to focus on other important issues.

A More Resilient Rural Arizona

Rural and agricultural small businesses also will be able to increase their resiliency and market competitiveness through the IRA. The Rural Energy for America Program provides grants that will cover up to 50% of the cost of energy efficiency and renewable energy projects for these businesses. When coupled with renewable energy tax credits, a qualifying business can recover 70% or more of the cost of a solar project in one year.

Pines Inn and Suites in Cottonwood is a perfect example. The hotel’s owner, Anna May Cory, invested $79,000 to install solar panels to reduce her climate impact and energy costs. With the REAP grant and renewable energy tax credit, she will receive $54,000 back, leading to a 70% savings on the cost of the system. Plus, she has cut her energy bills in half, meaning she is poised to save over $10,000 every year.

“We are proudly family-owned and care about our impact on the environment,” said Cory. “This year we participated in Local First’s Green Business Boot Camp where we received assistance to pursue projects like this. Yes, we were excited to learn how much money we could save, but are even more excited to see other businesses take advantage of opportunities like this.”

Go Green, Save Green

The Green Business Boot Camp helps locally owned businesses design, finance, and implement projects that reduce energy bills and save money.

Local First assists businesses in finding financing for these projects in a way that does not affect a business’s cash flow by taking advantage of all the tax credits, rebates, and low-interest loans they are eligible for.

These are only a few of the ways the IRA promises to transform Arizona into a more resilient and independent state.

Additional opportunities include billions of dollars available in grants to our rural and tribal communities. The challenge with grants is that many rural communities, tribes, and nonprofits do not have dedicated grant writers, making it difficult to pursue this funding.

Federal Aid With a Local Touch

Local First is helping to solve that challenge. We provide free grant-writing and capacity-building services to eligible rural and low-income communities, tribal nations, and nonprofits through our Arizona Economic Recovery Center to help them compete for funding and successfully carry out the grants they are awarded.

Already, grant applications developed with the Recovery Center have secured more than $33 million in competitive funding for communities across Arizona.

If you are interested in participating in one of our green business programs, email [email protected].

For more information on the Arizona Economic Recovery Center, email [email protected].


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