In the coming days, the Arizona Corporation Commission will consider whether to finally modernize our antiquated energy rules.
These elected utility regulators have met twice on this issue to take a vote. And twice, they’ve punted.
The energy rules have been under consideration for two years and have been the subject of more than 10 public meetings, thousands of comments filed with the commission, and hundreds of hours of engagement by stakeholders.
The time is long overdue for the commission to set aside politics and be the leaders we elected them to be. On Oct. 13-14, they must do their job and move our state toward a cleaner, healthier future.
This is not a radical idea. The state’s major utilities – Arizona Public Service, Tucson Electric Power, and Salt River Project – have already established goals to substantially reduce carbon emissions and produce energy from renewable or clean sources.
They understand consumers and companies alike want clean energy, a higher renewable standard, and more energy efficiency. Consumers are demanding it, and major corporations are embracing climate pledges and pursuing ambitious renewable energy policies.
So why the hesitancy to enshrine this in our state’s energy policies?
The ACC’s malaise doesn’t make sense to the vast majority of Arizonans who know that climate change is real, imminent, and human-caused. Catastrophic wildfires, record-breaking temperatures in Arizona, choking air pollution, and prolonged droughts have underscored the urgency of this issue in the West and beyond.
Requiring utilities to generate 50 percent of their energy from renewable sources by 2030 – and all of their electricity from carbon-free sources by 2050 – will ensure a cleaner future for all Arizonans, including communities directly impacted by fossil fuel extraction and power plant pollution such as the Navajo Nation, while also safeguarding consumers’ pocketbooks by reducing electricity costs with the cheapest energy source available and lowering utility bills.
The commission must also extend the Energy Efficiency Standard to 35 percent by 2030. Energy efficiency in Arizona has more than delivered on its promises to reduce costs and ensure we have cleaner air and water, leading to healthier communities.
A big sticking point is whether the commission will require that utilities meet periodic benchmarks on carbon reduction. These benchmarks are critical to ensuring utilities cannot just shelve their clean energy plans for decades, waiting until the final years of a 30-year action plan to meet critical targets.
We cannot risk such a toothless plan without benchmarks. After all, clear benchmarks turn goals into realities and send a clear message to the investment markets that Arizona is moving this direction.
Arizonans appreciate that our state’s abundant sunshine has unlimited potential, and they overwhelmingly support expanding the state’s renewable energy portfolio. Clean energy improves the air we breathe, supports healthy communities and helps reduce global warming pollution that has led to prolonged drought and extreme temperatures in the West.
The time is now. Utility regulators: Do your job and vote for a responsible, clean energy plan at your next meeting.
Emma Searson is director of the 100% Renewable Campaign for the Environment Arizona Research & Policy Center.