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Regulators: Arizona's Power Utilities Must be Carbon-Free by 2050

Under Arizona's proposed new energy-efficiency standards, coal- and gas-powered generation would be replaced by solar and wind energy by 2050. (lovelyday12/Adobe Stock)
Under Arizona's proposed new energy-efficiency standards, coal- and gas-powered generation would be replaced by solar and wind energy by 2050. (lovelyday12/Adobe Stock)
November 10, 2020

PHOENIX -- Arizona regulators this week will consider dramatic changes to the state's energy goals to bring those policies closer in line with those of other Western states.

The Arizona Corporation Commission tentatively has approved a plan requiring the state's regulated utilities to produce all of their power from carbon-free sources by 2050. The plan sets interim goals of cutting carbon emissions in half by 2035, and by three-quarters by 2040.

Diane Brown, executive director at the Arizona Public Interest Research Group Education Fund, said the new regulations track many of the guidelines her group proposed in a recent primer, "A Guide to Energy in Arizona."

"By moving forward to extend and expand Arizona's energy-efficiency standard, our state will continue to be at the forefront of energy-efficiency policies across the country," Brown said.

She said the commission will meet Thursday to discuss and vote on final approval of the regulatory package. The changes would put Arizona's energy efficiency standards on par with neighboring states such as California, Colorado, Nevada and others.

Under the proposal, Brown said, Arizona's regulated utilities would be required to meet energy goals by phasing out coal and natural-gas power plants and replacing them with renewable sources such as wind and solar generation.

"Electric utilities are collaborating more closely, providing opportunities for reliability improvements for the electric system and cost savings for consumers," she said.

She said the responsibility for finalizing the plan will be split between current commissioners and new members who will take office in 2021. Republicans Lea Márquez Peterson and Jim O'Connor, and Democrat Anna Tovar were elected or re-elected to the commission last week.

"The commission now needs to vote to advance a rule-making package," Brown said. "The next commission in 2021 will need to have the final approval."

She said the final rule-making process will include a hearing before an administrative-law judge and an extended public comment period before the regulations are final.

Disclosure: Arizona PIRG Education Fund contributes to our fund for reporting on Budget Policy & Priorities, Consumer Issues, Energy Policy, Urban Planning/Transportation. If you would like to help support news in the public interest, click here.
Mark Richardson, Public News Service - AZ