A Potential Shift in Focus for Arizona’s Renewable Energy Standard

Arizona’s Corporation Commission is considering the modernization and expansion of Arizona’s Renewable Energy Standard and Tariff (Commission Docket No. E-00000Q-16-0289).  The current Chairman of the Commission, Doug Little, has suggested doubling the amount of power that Arizona utilities obtain from renewable sources from 15 percent to 30 percent by 2030.  On December 9, 2016, Commissioner Andy Tobin filed a letter in the renewable energy standard docket that (1) offered support for the Clean Peak Standard proposed by Arizona’s Residential Utility Consumer Office (“RUCO”), and (2) proposed allowing energy obtained from the Palo Verde Nuclear Generating Station to be considered renewable energy.

The Clean Peak Standard proposed by RUCO attempts to address the fact that renewable energy production potential is often misaligned with periods of peak demand by requiring, in part, that a certain percentage of the power delivered during peak periods come from “clean energy sources.”  Commissioner Tobin’s letter proposes including nuclear as an acceptable clean energy source.  A number of groups have already objected to defining nuclear power as a renewable energy source and stated that allowing existing nuclear power production to qualify under the renewable energy standards does little to encourage development of new renewable energy sources.  Commissioner Tobin’s letter, however, appears to be a shift in focus from the development of additional renewable resources to emission reductions.  With the suggested increase to the renewables standard and the issues raised by Commissioner Tobin, Arizona’s Renewable Energy Standard is likely to be a major issue at the Arizona Corporation Commission in the coming year.


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