by Will Greene
In a stunning turn of events at the Arizona Corporation Commission (ACC) Wednesday, Commissioner Gary Pierce introduced an amendment that would effectively decrease Arizona’s Renewable Energy Standard (REST) from 15% to 13.5%.
Neighboring states Nevada, New Mexico, Colorado, and California all have (far) more aggressive renewable energy targets than Arizona. Commissioner Pierce’s amendment could put an icy chill on efforts to make Arizona a leader in renewable energy, and send a clear signal that this new set of Commissioners intends to put the brakes on the transition to clean, renewable sources of electricity. The state sits at 24th in the nation in percentage of electrons created from renewable sources, although that figure should improve some in 2014 when Gila Bend’s Solana Generating Station comes online.
Commissioner Pierce introduced the amendment which would have excluded electricity sales to large retail customers in the calculations that determine REST compliance. Before a vote could be taken on the amendment, ACC legal council informed Commissioner Pierce that the amendment would need closer examining due to possible rules violations. The amendment was tabled, but not before Commissioner Brenda Burns voiced her support for the idea.
Commissioner Pierce presented the amendment as a way to decrease costs for residential ratepayers, who currently pay under $4/month to fund solar rebates. On average, 2% of a ratepayer's electric bill pays for renewable energy (most of which is spent to build solar in Arizona), while roughly 30% is spent to import conventional fossil fuels from other states.
A recent APS/Morrison study found that 90% of customers support a state renewable energy standard, which sets a minimum percentage of electricity (15%) that Arizona utilities must produce from renewable sources by 2025. Commissioner Pierce’s amendment will be deliberated at an upcoming hearing at the ACC.