Arizona Regulators Consider Requiring 80% Clean Energy by 2050

Arizona regulators
(Photo Credit: Chris Hunkeler, Flickr Creative Commons)

Arizona regulators are currently considering a plan proposed by Arizona Corporation Commissioner Andy Tobin that would require the state’s electricity generating portfolio to be made up of at least 80% clean energy sources, likely including nuclear power, by 2050.

With comments on the Energy Modernization Plan due this week, utilities are expressing concerns over the exact energy mix and the potential costs, Utility Dive’s Robert Walton reported.

“Comments filed by [Arizona Public Service] called for flexibility and restraint in the proposal, while praising the inclusion of nuclear energy, a key attraction for the utility,” he wrote. “APS operates and owns a stake in the Palo Verde nuclear plant, which it said is an ‘integral part’ of the state’s plans.”

Arizona Public Service, the state’s largest utility, provides electricity to more than 1.2 million retail and residential customers in 11 of Arizona’s 15 counties. The utility says they expect to add 700,000 new customers by 2030. Earlier this year, APS and First Solar announced a 50-MW solar-fueled battery project that would provide more peak power from solar.

Tucson Electric Power and parent company UNS Energy (UNSE) also expressed concern in a letter submitted to the Arizona Corporation Commission this week, particularly over the costs.

“We can predict that costs will be higher if the plan includes rigid mandates for specific energy-related systems,” the letter states. “Customers benefit from policies that give utilities the flexibility to select the most appropriate, affordable resources to satisfy a policy objective, such as expanding energy storage or reducing overall emissions.”

TEP, which serves more than 414,000 customers in and around Tucson, is aiming for 30% renewables by 2030. Last year, nearly 13% of the community’s power came from renewable resources, the utility says. They anticipate adding 800 MW of new renewable capacity by the end of 2030, increasing the total renewable energy portfolio to approximately 1,200 MW.

“Recently, the price of clean energy technology has dropped significantly, all while capabilities have increased,” Tobin wrote in his proposal from January. “Unfortunately, current policies do not encourage the adoption of beneficial new clean energy sources, nor protect existing ones.”

Renewable energy in Arizona has turned into a political battle marked by confusion, Inside Climate News reported. Besides the commission’s Energy Modernization Plan, there are competing ballot measures involving renewables. Although details of Tobin’s proposal are still being determined, it remains unclear just how far the plan will go.

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