Posted by AzBlueMeanie:
For at least two decades now, we have heard it repeated often that Arizona could be the "solar capitol of the world." Not even close. Check out the map below. Arizona sticks out like a sore thumb among our western state neighbors in renewable energy production.
Brad Plumer posts today at Ezra Klein's Wonk Blog, Who uses renewable power, in one map:
We keep hearing that renewable energy is booming in the United States, but where is it? Here’s a handy map from the U.S. Energy Information Administration showing how much electricity each state gets from wind, solar, biomass, and geothermal (but not hydropower):
Maine was the clear winner in 2011, getting 27 percent of its electricity coming from renewable sources — a lot of it wind power and biomass. But Maine had a lot of renewable energy back in 2001, too. South Dakota and Iowa, at 21 percent and 17 percent, have seen far more impressive growth. Both of those states got almost none of their electricity from renewable sources a decade ago.
Why do some states do better than others? Policy helps. Some 30 states have laws that require utilities to get a certain portion of their power from renewable sources. (The Southeast is the big exception here.) The strictness of the laws varies from state to state, but by and large, states with stricter standards get more renewables. But simply having natural resources helps, too: Idaho, Wyoming, and South Dakota don’t have strict standards, but there’s so much wind up there that turbines are going up anyway.
What’s less clear is whether this rapid growth will continue. A good portion of the recent boom in wind and solar power has been thanks to the federal production tax credit and assorted grants in the stimulus bill. Those grants have now expired and the tax credit for wind will expire at the end of 2012. Clean-energy advocates are hoping it gets renewed when Congress tries to avert “Taxmageddon” and the end of this year, but that’s not a sure bet.
The EIA has data on total renewable generation, not including hydropower, here (Excel file).
Back in 2006, the Arizona Corporation Commission adopted Renewable Energy Standard & Tariff (REST). These rules require that regulated electric utilities must generate 15 percent of their energy from renewable resources by 2025. The Commission’s Renewable Energy Standards encourage utilities to use solar, wind, biomass, biogas, geothermal and other similar technologies to generate “clean” energy to power Arizona’s future.
And every year since, the Arizona legislature has sought to reverse these renewable energy standards. This year a Goldwater institute sponsored bill, HB 2789, sought to give the Arizona legislature "oversight" (i.e., veto power) over the Arizona Corporation Commission REST rules. Why?
In 2011, an appellate court rejected an attempt by the Goldwater Institute to overturn the renewable energy standards the Corporation Commission adopted in 2006. The Arizona Supreme Court refused to hear the Goldwater Institute’s appeal of that decision, effectively upholding the appellate court’s ruling.
HB 2789 passed the House, and a "strike everything" amendment was approved in the Senate Government Reform Committee on March 9; it cleared the Rules Committee on March 19, but there does not appear to have been any further action in the Senate.
Around that same time, a legal opinion by Corporation Commission Chief Legal Counsel Janice Alward determined that the strike-everything amendment to HB 2789 that was adopted in the Senate committee violates the Arizona Constitution by limiting the Commission’s authority to set utility rates.
It has been “well settled” by the courts that the Commission has exclusive authority over setting rates – an authority that extends to “maters determined by the Commission to be necessary for effective ratemaking,” Alward wrote.
If Arizona is ever going to achieve its potential as the "solar capitol of the world," it must first commit to this policy goal. Corporation Commissoner Gary Pierce actually supported the Goldwater Institute bill -- he's gotta go. And the Goldwater institute that does the bidding of its major financial backer, the Koch brothers (oil/gas/coal), and the regressive Tea-Publicans in the Arizona legislature who scoff at the idea of renewable energy, have gotta go. These regressives are holding this state back and making Arizona an outlier among our western state neighbors in the production of renewable energy.
UPDATE: Quoth T. Boone Pickens: "The biggest deterrent to an energy plan in America is Koch Industries," he says. "They do not want an energy plan for America because they have the cheapest natural gas price they've ever had, and they're in the fertilizer business and they're in the chemical business. So their margins are huge. And they do not want you to have an energy plan, because if you had a plan, then natural gas prices would come up."