Arizona’s got a new RPS proposal and this one might be for real

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Possibly motivated by the proven powerlessness of ballot initiatives to cause changes on the energy front, a new commissioner in the Arizona Corporation Commission (ACC) has proposed an enhanced renewable portfolio standard (RPS) for the state, one which actually puts renewables at the forefront.

Commissioner Sandra Kennedy’s proposal calls for 50% of all energy generated by 2028 to come from renewable resources. This is significant not only because of the timeframe, which would put this initiative on an even faster track than the failed 50% by 2030 ballot initiative, but in the details as well.

First and foremost, Kennedy’s proposal makes no mention of nuclear power, which immediately varies it from Commissioner Tobin’s proposed  80% “clean energy” by 2050 goal. This means that the 3.3 GW Palo Verde nuclear power plant, partially owned by Arizona Public Service (APS) and the largest in the nation, would receive no incentives based on its output.

Furthermore, Kennedy directly calls for an increase in the carve out for distributed energy from the current requirement of 30% to an updated 50% of all renewable generation. This is absolutely huge, especially in Arizona. While solar has bloomed in the state, utilities including APS have done everything within their power to kill the market for distributed, customer- and third-party owned rooftop solar.

What’s more is that Kennedy also calls for this first penetration of distributed generation in the Grand Canyon State to be coupled with energy storage systems. This again differs from Commissioner Tobin’s plan, which also has a carveout for energy storage. Tobin’s, however, calls just for a target of 3,000 MW of deployed energy storage by 2030. So while Tobin’s 3,000 MW goal sounds nice, just like his 80% goal, this figure is misleading. Again, this is not a mandate, but a target, which implies no actual motivation for utilities to hit the mark if missing the mark carries no penalties and is generally passive.

It’ll be interesting to see how far this proposition goes. The fact that this proposal is coming from within the ACC, which has long been accused of being in bed with APS, is huge, and this could be a sign that the new commissioners elected last fall are very different than their predecessors. This is further magnified only by the proposal’s staunch support of distributed generation, which is sure to scorn APS. For now we wait and hope the new year bring new energy attitudes to a state which could revolutionize its energy sector with the acceptance of distributed solar.

Correction as of 2/13/19: This article was edited to remove an incorrect statement that Commissioner Tobin’s plan includes no carveout for distributed energy storage.