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3 utility regulators block Arizona’s path to clean energy

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The Arizona Corporation Commission on July 30 missed a historic opportunity to put Arizona on a path toward a cleaner, healthier and more prosperous future by failing to strengthen the state’s antiquated energy rules.

Unfortunately, Commissioners Boyd Dunn, Justin Olson, and Lea Marquez Peterson lobbied against a bi-partisan energy proposal – endorsed by Chairman Bob Burns and Commissioner Sandra Kennedy – along with a broad coalition of NGOs, business, faith and community groups to modernize Arizona’s rules on clean energy and energy efficiency. Collectively, support was demonstrated by thousands of customers and businesses.

The result was adjournment of the meeting with no clear path forward.

Amanda Ormond

Amanda Ormond

Most egregious is the failure not to extend and expand options for customers to save energy and lower utility bills through energy efficiency. Energy efficiency in Arizona has more than delivered on its promises to reduce costs, create jobs, strengthen our economy and ensure we have cleaner air and water, which leads to healthier communities. By not supporting extension of the current energy efficiency standard today, all Arizonans will see higher utility bills at a time when pocketbooks are already stressed because of the COVID-19 crisis.

Sandy Bahr

Sandy Bahr

Chairman Burns and Commissioner Kennedy proposed bold steps to reform the Commission’s  ineffective resource planning and procurement process. If adopted today, their proposal would have established a robust process with significant stakeholder participation, a bidding process that will ensure fairness and encourage competition among energy suppliers, and careful consideration of the state’s energy needs would have been adopted.

The bipartisan proposal from Burns and Kennedy called for:

  • Utilities to generate 50% of their energy from renewable sources by 2030
  • Utilities to be 100% carbon-free by 2050
  • Extending the Energy Efficiency Standard to 35% by 2030
  • More transparent and accountable long-term resource planning process

It also included important interim benchmarks to ensure utilities could not shelve their clean energy plans for years, or even decades, and called for support for a just and equitable transition for communities impacted by power plant closures and mining pollution.

Rules were under consideration for two years, with 10 public meetings, thousands of comments filed, and hundreds of hours of engagement by stakeholders. The July 30 meeting was the last opportunity this year for this elected and appointed commission to pass clean energy rules in 2020, due to the length of the rules process.

Amanda Ormond is director of the Western Grid Group and former director of the Arizona Energy Office. Sandy Bahr is director of the Sierra Club, Grand Canyon Chapter

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