The southwestern US state of Arizona has taken an important step towards ensuring 100% of its electricity is delivered by 100% clean power, after the Arizona Corporate Commission voted to approve a plan requiring 100% reduction in carbon emissions from regulated utilities by 2050.
The plan, which was approved on a narrow 3-2 vote by the Arizona Corporate Commission (ACC), calls for a 100% reduction in carbon emissions by 2050, with interim targets of at least 50% reduction by 2032 and at least 75% by 2040.
Arizona’s current renewable energy mandate is a relatively lax 15% by 2025, enacted back in 2006. The new targets, if the final rule is passed by the ACC and then approved by the Arizona Secretary of State, would significantly increase the legal obligation of investor-owned utilities to increase their renewable energy share.
“The climate crisis is impacting Arizonans right now,” said ACC Commissioner Sandra D. Kennedy, after the ruling. “I am glad the Commission was finally able to look past partisan politics to support science and economics-based policy that stakeholders, utilities and ratepayers could all agree upon and benefit from.
“We cannot stop now, however. This vote is just the beginning of the important work that the Commission needs to do to address harmful climate change impacts to ratepayers and to the general public health and welfare throughout Arizona.”
The rules package approved by the ACC also includes other significant amendments, including a mandate that energy storage systems account for 5% of the state’s resource mix by 2035, of which 40% must be customer-owned or leased.
Another amendment to the rules package, passed in early October, also boosts the energy efficiency goals for investor-owned utilities to equal 35% of their 2020 energy demand by 2030 – up from the previous target of 22% by 2030.
Of course, it is important to note that Arizona’s investor-owned utilities have already begun laying out their own plans for decarbonisation, reacting to market and popular pressure. In January, Arizona Public Service, the largest electric utility in Arizona, announced a commitment to deliver 100% carbon-free electricity to customers by 2050, with an interim target of 65% by 2030.
Meanwhile, in June, Tucson Electric Power announced plans to provide over 70% of its power from wind and solar resources as part of a new clean energy portfolio that the utility expects will reduce carbon emissions by 80% by 2035.
The new ACC rules package, however, will make all of this mandatory, and effective for all the state’s investor-owned utilities, a move which will pull the state in line with a growing number of other US states who have all set their own 100% targets.
Already, states including Hawaii, California, New York, Maine, Virginia, New Mexico, Nevada, and Washington state have all set policies to reach 100% renewable energy or clean energy (the latter allowing the inclusion of nuclear along with renewables), while other states including Connecticut, Colorado, Illinois, Michigan, Minnesota, New Jersey, Rhode Island, and Wisconsin are all currently debating implementing their own 100% goals.
However, the Arizona decision was not without its partisan rancour, despite ACC Commissioner Kennedy’s suggestion to the contrary. The rules package amendment was opposed by both Republican Commissioners, Justin Olson and Lea Marquez Peterson.
Further, Olson used the opportunity to published an “Opinion” on the amended energy rules, raising the spectre of doubt that mandating a renewable energy transition will unduly affect Arizona ratepayers.
Olson also claimed the amended standards exceeded the commission’s constitutional rate-making authority, while simultaneously scorning the original 2006 renewable energy mandate as having “an extremely detrimental impact on the affordability of Arizona utility rates.”