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Arizona power must come from 100% carbon-free sources by 2050, ACC decides

The Arizona Corporation Commission (ACC) has approved a plan for utilities to get all of their energy from carbon-free sources like solar and nuclear energy by 2050, bringing the state closer in line to other Western states. The new regulations require electric utilities to get half their power from renewable energy like solar and wind in 2035. Then in 2050, they would need to supply all customer demand for electricity with either renewables, carbon-free nuclear, or energy-efficiency measures such as subsidizing low-watt lightbulbs or attic insulation for customers.

The new requirements would make Arizona’s renewable rules stricter than Montana, Oregon and Washington, although Washington’s goal of going carbon-free is to do so by 2045, five years earlier than Arizona.

The new requirements will spur development of solar plants, battery storage and other renewables, though commissioners debated whether the rules will affect customers’ bills. Because the rules require additional energy-efficiency measures, they are likely to include opportunities for customers to save through utility conservation programs.

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.

Electric utilities will have to phase out coal- and natural-gas-burning power plants, and will need to start soon, because the plan has interim requirements that utilities cut carbon emissions in half by 2032 and 75% by 2040.

Also approved was an update to the requirements for how utilities plan and build new power plants or make deals to buy power from others, with commissioners giving the OK to proposals that advocates such as the clean-energy advocacy Western Grid Group and Sierra Club said will make utility resource plans more transparent and competitive.

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