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No Compromise: AZ 100% Clean Energy Rules dead for good

Community solar
Posted at 6:03 PM, Jan 26, 2022
and last updated 2022-02-15 13:42:09-05

PHOENIX — After more than four years of debate, the effort to create 100% clean energy rules for Arizona utilities failed in a final 3-2 vote on Wednesday.

Three no votes came from Republican members of the Arizona Corporation Commission (ACC), Lea Marquez Peterson, Justin Olson and Jim O'Connor.

Democrat Commissioners Sandra Kennedy and Anna Tovar voted in favor.

The proposal would have directed regulated utilities to get 100% of their power from carbon-free sources by the end of 2070 and set interim carbon emission reduction standards of 50% by the end of 2032, 65% by the end of 2040, 80% by the end of 2050, and 90% by the end of 2060.

In May 2021, the draft rules failed to pass after the two Democrats voted against them in protest of the majority changing the rules from requirements to goals.

Later that month, Kennedy asked for a reconsideration of the vote which was granted. And it seemed the rules had been given new life after a compromise amendment from Tovar and O'Connor to extend the decarbonization deadline from 2050 to 2070.

O'Connor voted against his compromise on Wednesday.

"I have concluded that the utilities are serious and sincere with their commitments to clean energy," O'Connor said during the explanation of his vote.

He continued, "I concluded they do not need these state-level energy rules at this time, which could pose risks for ratepayers."

Olson has consistently opposed the rules throughout the process due to his concern of additional costs to ratepayers and his often-repeated desire for retail competition.

Marquez Peterson who also helped move the rules forward in 2021 always had a problem with mandating utilities to use clean energy and cited the utilities' stated clean energy goals as a reason for her vote.

"With their (utilities) voluntary commitments, I believe we've entered into a new chapter and the transition to clean energy," she said.

Kennedy and Tovar were clearly frustrated during remarks after it became clear the measure would be voted down.

In response to the concerns about costs for clean energy Kennedy said, "I don't anticipate the price of sunshine, wind, or geothermal heat from the Earth's core changing anytime soon."

"We as commissioners should be ashamed that all of this painstaking effort was in vain, because we let politics get in the way of what is right," Tovar said. "As of today, two different commissioners have flip-flopped on their votes on two separate occasions over the exact same draft."

The decision comes as a blow to the hundreds of stakeholders involved in the process. Environmental groups, businesses, tribes, consumer groups, and utilities all supported the measure.

In a statement, Southwest Energy Efficiency Project (SWEEP) pointed out the rejection of the rules also forfeits the extension of the state's Energy Efficiency Standard which provided rebates to replace old appliances and cut energy waste.

"By failing to extend Arizona’s Efficiency Standard, the Commission has abdicated its responsibility to protect Arizona ratepayers, including our most vulnerable community members," said Utility Program Manager Caryn Potter.