Arizona commission signals support for 100% clean energy by 2050

Share

The Arizona Corporation Commission has directed its staff to develop a set of rules to achieve 100% clean energy by 2050, said Commission Chair Robert Burns in a letter on Wednesday.

Commissioner Sandra Kennedy wrote the same day that while she preferred a standard of 100% clean energy by 2040, because “the science is clear regarding the need for aggressive decarbonization,” she would support a 2050 deadline to achieve majority agreement.

Commissioner Lea Marquez Peterson voiced her support for 100% clean energy by 2050 in a letter last week. The three commissioners constitute a majority of the five-member commission, and a fourth commissioner, Boyd Dunn, voiced his support for the standard in an informal “vote” called by Chairman Burns at a recent meeting, said a press release from conservation group Western Resource Advocates.

Burns said in his letter that “when it comes to renewable energy resources, I believe everyone agrees that these costs are dropping.” As evidence, he provided a link to recent renewable energy prices in Arizona and the West, published by WesternGrid.net.

Burns also noted recently established Commission requirements for utilities to develop an integrated resource plan (IRP), a process in which the Commission will oversee both the utility’s load forecast and its all-source request for proposals, and consider stakeholder input. The utility must then choose its future resources from the results of the RFP. “The IRP process is the most important/crucial part of the rules we will be adopting,” Burns wrote.

Kennedy in her letter added that “energy efficiency is the least cost resource, while renewable energy and battery storage technologies are consistently beating out natural gas and other resources on price. This is the case even when social costs of carbon, water use, coal ash, and other externalities are not included in the pricing.”

Western Resource Advocates is one of 32 groups, shown below, calling for Arizona to reach 50% renewables by 2030, up from about 7% now, which is mostly solar. The groups also call for 100% clean energy by 2045, and define “clean” as emitting no carbon dioxide—a technology-neutral standard that would permit solar, wind, nuclear, and gas with carbon capture and storage, said Adam Stafford, Western Resource Advocates’ staff attorney in Phoenix.

Fourteen other states have mandates or goals for 100% clean or renewable electricity by 2050 or earlier, as do Washington, DC and Puerto Rico, as shown in the map above from Advanced Energy Economy.

The Arizona Corporation Commission is the state’s “co-equal, fourth branch of government,” says a commission press release. It was established by the state constitution to regulate public utilities, and its members are elected by the voters of Arizona.