TWW’s Arizona State Director Jaime Molera had the chance to virtually interview Arizona Corporation Commission Chairwoman Lea Márquez Peterson recently. The conversation covered the latest in Arizona’s energy policy landscape and how new technologies and innovation are driving significant changes.
Highlights of the interview include:
Q: As the CEO of a chamber of commerce you fought against a lot of regulatory encroachment on businesses, is it ironic that you now work for a regulatory body?
A: “It brings a very valuable perspective to my role as a Commissioner, I don’t want to overregulate, I want to provide as many free market opportunities as possible, but also provide those guardrails that protect public health and safety.”
Q. A couple of years ago Arizona was faced with the Steyer initiative, Prop 127, and Arizonans fought against that and you were part of that coalition that fought it off, how do you think it’s going now that it was defeated?
A: “It’s good that you bring that up, that was Prop 127 and I advocated against that pretty vehemently as a small business advocate, as a chamber president, because it would have put 100% renewable energy requirement on Arizona’s rate payers in a very short amount of time and wouldn’t have allowed for any flexibility because it was a citizen initiative. So Arizona thankfully, resoundingly defeated it. What we are doing today is completely different, we’re setting a goal that is some 30 years out that is focused on emissions standards, we’re looking at the end game and not calling out winners and losers in terms of technologies. It’s different, and because I had that experience advocating against Prop 127, I think it’s made my perspective certainly a little more in tune and focused as we negotiate our energy rules.”
Q. Let’s talk about the Energy Rules standards, you were a very vocal proponent in incorporating emission-based standards rather than technology-based standards. Can you describe that because that process can be fairly complicated?
A: “I understand that it’s kind of wonky, the work we do at the Commission, so I’m making it a point now to go around the state to talk to as many groups, chambers, and other clubs that want to learn about this. What we are doing, and it’s an initiative that I proposed and was very proud to do so, was that we achieve 100% clean energy and zero carbon emissions by 2050. A lot of analysis went into just that statement. One, in the past you’d seen standards based on technology, so certain percentage of a type of technology so certain percentage renewables or so on.
But I think it was it was very important to me and as I talked with my fellow commissioners that we don’t pick the winners and losers in technology, that we leave it open to include nuclear energy, we have such an asset in Arizona with our Palo Verde nuclear plant – the largest in the nation – renewable energy, hydrogen, fusion, natural gas and the transition it’s going through. There is so much out there and so much innovation I didn’t want to tie us down in a certain technology but really focus on the end goal which was zero carbon emissions.”