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Will Arizona be next to go 100 percent?

Historic new energy rules could move the state forward, but they aren’t final

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Emma Searson
Director, 100% Renewable Campaign

Author: Emma Searson

Director, 100% Renewable Campaign

(828) 545-7300

Started on staff: 2016
B.A., magna cum laude, Phi Beta Kappa and Sigma Xi, Washington University in St. Louis

Emma oversees Environment America's national campaign for 100 percent renewable energy, working to deliver a bold vision for a future powered by clean energy one state at a time. Since joining the team at Environment America, Emma has led campaigns building and mobilizing public support for renewable energy and climate action in cities and states across the nation. She has authored reports on energy efficiency, solar energy and other renewable energy policy areas. Originally from North Carolina, Emma now lives in Boston, where she enjoys running, cooking and exploring the great outdoors in her free time.

Recently, Arizona’s utility regulatory body -- the Arizona Corporation Commission (ACC) -- took historic steps toward a clean energy future for the Grand Canyon State. If finalized and adopted, the ACC’s latest votes would require Arizona utilities to provide 50 percent renewable power by 2035 and 100 percent carbon-free power by 2050. But, the deal is far from done. For those who aren’t intimately familiar with what’s going on at the ACC with this potential landmark policy shift, here’s a brief explainer. 

First, let’s take a quick look at what brought us to this moment. Arizona’s electric grid is largely governed by a set of energy regulations that date back to 2006. As those rules currently stand, the state’s regulated electric utilities are required to get at least 15 percent of their power from renewable resources by 2025. They must also meet interim targets along the way. Since then, most of Arizona’s neighbors -- including California, Colorado, Nevada, and New Mexico -- have set more ambitious clean or renewable energy targets, leaving Arizona behind. 

That progress in other states hasn’t gone unnoticed, though. For one, even though Arizona hasn’t created a new plan yet, its utilities have been setting their own, more ambitious clean and renewable energy targets. For example, Arizona’s largest electric utility, Arizona Public Service (APS), has set its sights on 45 percent renewable electricity by 2030 and 100 percent clean by 2050. Others also see the importance of more robust goals. Some corporation commissioners -- both Republican and Democratic -- and clean energy advocates have also been working to update Arizona’s energy rules for years. This broad coalition of more than 30 organizations -- including Environment Arizona Research & Policy Center -- and industry, faith and community groups have been pushing the ACC during the last two years to modernize the state’s energy efficiency and renewable energy targets. The new rules currently under consideration are the result of those years of effort. 

So, what exactly are these new energy rules? As mentioned, they would require Arizona utilities to source half of the power they provide from renewable resources, like the sun and wind, by 2035 and all of that power from carbon-free resources by 2050. But the package also includes new and improved standards for energy efficiency and energy storage. In October, commissioners made extending and strengthening the state’s energy efficiency resource standard, which will deliver more rebates and services to help customers reduce energy waste and save money, a part of the prospective rules. In addition, the new energy storage requirement would mandate that utilities have the energy storage capacity of 5 percent of their 2020 peak power demand. All together, the new rules would put Arizona on par with its neighboring states, and, more importantly, on track to achieve the clean energy future that Arizonans want and need.

The only catch is that these energy rules are still a few steps away from the finish line. Next up, the commissioners must vote on the overall package. This vote, which is expected on Friday, will determine whether the energy rules package as a whole moves forward. If that passes, there will be a window for public comment before the regulation language is locked in and a final vote occurs next year.

Arizonans understand the untapped potential of their state’s abundant sunshine and overwhelmingly support expanding their energy efficiency standards and renewable energy portfolio. Arizonans know that clean energy improves the air we breathe, supports healthy communities and helps reduce global warming pollution, which has led to prolonged drought and extreme temperatures in the West. Arizonans want a clean energy future, and the commissioners who vote on this important set of rules must be leaders who listen to their constituents and deliver that future. 

Emma Searson
Director, 100% Renewable Campaign

Author: Emma Searson

Director, 100% Renewable Campaign

(828) 545-7300

Started on staff: 2016
B.A., magna cum laude, Phi Beta Kappa and Sigma Xi, Washington University in St. Louis

Emma oversees Environment America's national campaign for 100 percent renewable energy, working to deliver a bold vision for a future powered by clean energy one state at a time. Since joining the team at Environment America, Emma has led campaigns building and mobilizing public support for renewable energy and climate action in cities and states across the nation. She has authored reports on energy efficiency, solar energy and other renewable energy policy areas. Originally from North Carolina, Emma now lives in Boston, where she enjoys running, cooking and exploring the great outdoors in her free time.