By Ryan Randazzo | Arizona Republic
The new rules update the Renewable Energy Standard and Tariff that an all-Republican commission passed in 2006 and requires utilities to get 15% of their power from renewables by 2025, as well as the 2010 energy-efficiency requirements for them to use efficiency measures to meet 22% of their energy demand by this year.
Arizona utility regulators voted to require electric companies to get all of their electricity from carbon-free sources like solar, wind and nuclear power plants in 2070. It has been a whipsaw year for the rules, which were pushed out 20 years from an earlier plan. The bipartisan compromise at the Arizona Corporation Commission came just three weeks after the rules were killed following an initial approval last fall that was widely celebrated by environmental advocates. Even though she supported the rules in the fall, Chairwoman Lea Márquez Peterson backed a change earlier this month to set simple “goals” for emissions reductions rather than “requirements” as supported by a host of advocacy groups.
The two Democrats on the five-member commission wouldn’t go along with weakening the rules, which sunk them after years of effort to boost Arizona’s use of renewable energy. But Democrat Anna Tovar and Republican Jim O’Connor worked out a compromise to maintain the new energy rules as requirements while pushing back the date when utilities must get 100% carbon-free energy to Dec. 31, 2070, from the initial 2050 date proposed. That compromise was good enough to bring in Democrat Sandra Kennedy for a 3-2 vote, with Márquez Peterson maintaining her opposition to requirements and Republican Justin Olson unmoved in his opposition to any rules dictating what type of energy is used to power the state. The rules now will require utilities to reduce carbon emissions 50% in 2032, 65% in 2040, 80% in 2050, 95% in 2060 and 100% by Dec. 31, 2070.
Kennedy didn’t want to push out the 100% clean-energy date beyond 2050 but did so to prevent the rules from dying for the second time this month.
“I believe waiting until 2070 to achieve carbon free is completely unacceptable and … is really out of step with known and accepted science,” Kennedy said during Wednesday’s meeting. Later she added that she would support extending the date “to move the process along so we can move Arizona along.”
Márquez Peterson said she simply couldn’t support setting requirements rather than goals, even though she gave a yes vote for clean-energy requirements, with a 100% clean date of 2050, in November. Prior to her vote in November, Márquez Peterson said she could not support the rules if they had a requirement for how much energy must come from renewable sources like solar and wind versus carbon-free sources, which includes renewables as well as efficiency and nuclear energy. The other commissioners supporting the rules accepted that change to ensure Márquez Peterson’s support for the final vote earlier this month, but when that vote came around, she had new demands.
Among those watching Wednesday’s vote was Ceres, a nonprofit that works with large corporations to push for sustainability measures. More than 24 members had called on Arizona regulators to boost clean-energy requirements. Ball Corporation, Google, Microsoft, Salesforce and the Arizona Technology Council are among those encouraging stronger requirements in the state.
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