Save the date? Arizona regulators agree to delay the state’s clean energy goal to 2070


Arizona utility regulators voted 3-2 to advance an amended package aimed at moving Arizona’s regulated utilities to 100% carbon-free energy by 2070. The vote came after the energy rules package failed at the commission’s May 5 meeting.

The amended energy rules will now go back through the formal rulemaking process which allows for public comment before eventually coming back to the commission for a final vote.

In early May, regulators voted down new rules that would have required most of the state’s electricity providers to get all of their power from clean energy sources by 2050. That plan had been backed by the state’s regulated utilities and was given initial approval by the commission on a 4-1 vote last November after three years of work.

When it came up for a vote on May 5, however, the plan ran afoul of an amendment that would have turned requirements into voluntary goals. That change cost the support of the two Democrats on the panel.

Following the surprise defeat, several compromises were made among commissioners to reach the votes needed to advance the rules package.

For example, a joint amendment from commissioners Anna Tovar and Jim O’Connor extended the deadline by which utilities must reach 100% carbon-free emissions from 2050 to 2070. Interim standards begin with a 50% reduction by 2032, a 65% reduction by 2040, an 80% reduction by 2050, and a 95% reduction by 2060.

Three other amendments which were adopted add a Ratepayer Impact Measure Test, make changes to the portfolio options utilities must include in their Integrated Resource Plans, and add the definition of ‘All Source’ which includes supply-side and demand-side resources.

Chairwoman Lea Márquez Peterson offered an amendment to allow a utility to seek a fair return on the fair value of investments made in demand-side resources, such as energy efficiency and demand response.

The regulatory package is out of step with clean energy goals already announced by the state’s electricity providers.

Arizona Public Servuce announced in January 2020 that it plans to get all its power from non-carbon emitting sources by 2050 and to end use of coal-fired power plants by 2031.

The utility gets about 25% of its power from the Palo Verde Nuclear Generating station west of Phoenix. It plans to add utility-scale solar power plants, increase battery storage, and looks to homeowners to add more rooftop solar panels to supply electricity.

Tucson Electric Power said last year it will retire its coal plants by 2032 and get more than 70% of its power from solar and wind by 2035.

Non-regulated Salt River Project said in early May that it planned to more than double its 2025 utility-scale solar commitment to add 2,025 MW of new utility-scale solar energy to its power system by the end of its 2025 fiscal year. The new goal is more than 1,000 MW beyond SRP’s original 2025 commitment of 1,000 MW, announced in November 2018.

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