Editor’s note: This guest commentary was erroneously published after Commissioner Lea Marquez Peterson voted on an amendment to change the proposed energy rules to goals. The Conservatives for Responsible Stewardship has since denounced Peterson’s vote.
Arizona Corporation Commission Chair Lea Márquez Peterson, a Tucson Republican, has been taking some heat from special interest shills, such as the misleadingly named Arizona Free Enterprise Club, a group backed by the fossil fuel industry. Why? Because she supports smart–energy policies that reflect the current market in order to offer Arizonans the cheapest electricity.
The U.S. energy market has changed dramatically over the past several years, especially in the Southwest. For example, while the price of electricity generated from regional coal plants is approaching $80 per megawatt hour (MWh), new solar paired with storage for night generation is selling for between $14 and $25 per MWh.
Furthermore, while that low solar+storage price is being guaranteed for the next 20 years, the cost of electricity from aging coal and gas plants continues to rise.
Commissioner Márquez Peterson recognizes these trends and understands that overreliance on coal and gas generation will lead to higher monthly utility bills for Arizona families, small businesses, and companies.
Utilities, including Tucson Electric Power (TEP) and Arizona Public Service (APS), also recognize the need to shift away from coal and gas. Both utilities have announced plans to retire their remaining coal plants before 2032. TEP also plans to get 70% of its electricity from renewable sources by 2035, and APS has pledged to rely 100% on clean, carbon-free electricity by 2050.
It makes perfect sense then that the Corporation Commission would take their cue from the energy market — and the long-term plans of TEP and APS — in pursuing a statewide objective of 100% clean energy by 2050. Like APS, the Corporation Commission envisions an electric portfolio comprised primarily of Palo Verde nuclear and solar+storage.
Not only do those sources offer Arizona ratepayers the cheapest electricity generation, they also lead from the standpoint of homegrown reliability and energy independence.
Unfortunately, just like elements of the far left typically do, the folks over at the Arizona Free Enterprise Club are pushing for policies that swim upstream against market trends. They want lawmakers to prop up aging, expensive coal plants, even if it means charging Arizona ratepayers for electricity costing five times the price of solar.
Apparently, the club has been misleading state lawmakers with talking points from out-of-state coal and gas interests, and convincing them to pursue a series of bills designed to prevent the Corporation Commission from enacting rules that reflect today’s rapidly changing energy market and protect Arizona ratepayers.
Such legislation would be disastrous for Arizona. Not only would it lead to higher electricity prices, it would also cause this state to fall behind neighboring states in attracting new business. Companies wanting to expand or relocate are demanding ample access to clean, cheap energy sources.
The Arizona Free Enterprise Club’s scare tactics include trying to equate the Corporation Commission’s new energy rules with the left’s Green New Deal. Here again, the Free Enterprise Club is barking up the wrong tree. The proposed Corporation Commission Energy Rules that they are fighting actually offer the best way to prevent whacky notions like the Green New Deal.
By firmly leaning into an energy market that now allows us to address climate change while lowering utility bills, we are reducing the public appetite for sweeping proposals from the far left, like the Green New Deal, that seek to alter our free enterprise system.
Commissioner Márquez Peterson’s energy–smart leadership has the Arizona Corporation Commission going in the right direction, making sure that Arizonans realize the full benefits of current energy market trends. Beyond being good for our wallets, it represents the most prudent, market-oriented, and conservative path forward for Arizona.
David Jenkins is president of Conservatives for Responsible Stewardship, a national nonprofit organization with more than 800 members in Arizona.