Electric utilities must be getting worried in Arizona, as they are pushing laws with questionable constitutional basis on their state representatives to sign. Such a fear is understandable in a state where even friendly regulators are turning against utilites’ energy development plans.
Friday afternoon – March 23, the Arizona Governor Doug Ducey (R), signed a law (H.B. 2005) that states any “public service corporations” in Arizona, if it violates a requirement set upon it by the Arizona Corporation Commission (ACC), must pay a fine of $100 to $5,000.
State politicians have said this law was signed specifically to allow the electric utilities to ignore the state’s renewable energy mandate in exchange for a relatively minuscule fine. The ACC, as per the Arizona constitution, regulates these corporations – not the Senate, House nor Governor. This structure was specifically put in place to give the general public a voice in regulating publicly approved monopolies, including electricity utilities in this case.
According the the AZ Capital Times, the Senate’s own legal counsel told lawmakers that what they were doing was unconstitutional.
Interestingly, in contrast to constant regurgitation that renewables are expensive, one of the lowest priced contracts for solar power (or of any electricity sources really) and energy storage in the world was signed in Arizona at 3¢/kWh for the solar portion of the contract, and 4.5¢/kWh for solar power delivered later in the day via energy storage.
Arizona utilities have long been resistant to customer-owned solar. The Salt River Project (SRP) recently agreed to buy a 25MW battery from Tesla in order to keep the Supreme Court from ruling on whether it violated monopoly laws by increasing costs on solar power customers specifically. State courts had agreed with Tesla that the SRP had, in fact, violated laws by introducing the first demand charge for residential customers in the nation.
Electricity utility Arizona Public Service (APS) is also being investigated by the FBI, which may be due to the large volumes of “dark money” in ACC races. This has led toward more and more people pushing to get onto the SRP’s board with solar power growth as part of their campaigns.
The new bill comes amid no less than three unique efforts to alter the state’s renewable energy mandate. One bill tied to the state’s utilities has already been filed, which sets a 50% by 2030 mandate. Meanwhile, members of the ACC are pushing an 80% “clean” energy by 2050 mandate. It is possible that both of these efforts are being promoted to distract the public while a 50% by 2030 renewable energy mandate – including 10% distributed generation – is being pushed via ballot initiative.
In the U.S.’s sunniest state, a place with some of the earth’s best solar resources, politicians and electricity utilities are afraid of the future – and may be willing to violate both law and the state’s constitution to keep their control of the state’s electricity supply.