On Friday, new clean-energy regulations were passed by Arizona utility regulators. The rules stipulate that electric companies will have to produce 100% carbon-free power by 2050, with several milestones between now and then. The new guidelines introduced on Friday contain several other criteria, including specifications for energy efficiency and utility companies’ battery storage policies.
The guidelines do not mandate utilities to use any specific green energy quantities like wind and solar to meet the carbon targets. This is because of an eleventh-hour deal made to get the three crucial votes required to pass the regulations. The utilities can use both renewable energy and nuclear and energy conservation initiatives that help consumers minimize usage to conform to the carbon-free laws.
Although the commission passed the law on a 3-2 majority on October 29th, the energy rules are not fully set. Two of the commission seats are changing next year, and enforcing the requirements requires the newly-seated commission to approve it.
Next year, Democrat Anna Tovar and Republican Jim O’Connor will take commissioners Robert Burns and Boyd Dunn. Republican Lea Márquez Peterson was appointed into the commission last year and still holds the seat after winning the election. Tovar advocates for more renewable energies, while O’Connor does not support the mandates. Sandra Kennedy, who supports clean energy, and Justin Olson, who doesn’t support the regulations, remain in the commission.
Márquez supported all new regulations, excluding the technology specifications saying that they were not crucial for implementation. She explained that doing away with the technology requirement puts pressure on the utilities to make wise investment choices instead of merely investing in renewable energy to satisfy the law and regain consumers’ investment.
This meant that without having Márquez Peterson voting in favour of the law, the rules could be overturned 3-2 with the newly appointed commission. Burns suggested a quick revision to delete the technology provision. Although Kennedy was against it, it was approved, and Márquez voted in the final rule package, although the technology requirement was not added. The vote ended at 4-1, with Commissioner Justin Olson dissenting.
The regulations come as an update to the Renewable Energy Standard and Tariff that came into effect in 2006 under an entirely Republican commission. The initial regulations require electricity utilities to have at least 15% of their energy from renewable sources by 2025. The law also includes a 2010 energy-efficiency rule that requires utilities to use efficiency measures to meet 22% of their energy needs by this year.