Arizona regulator wants to adopt 80% clean energy plan before gas moratorium ends
- The Arizona Corporation Commission (ACC) opened a new docket in August to evaluate the Arizona Energy Modernization Plan (AEMP) and to refine specific language in the associated tariff, but on Thursday Commissioner Andy Tobin urged regulators to accelerate and complete the process before a moratorium on new natural gas plants expires at the end of this year.
- Tobin said he hopes to "celebrate the effective date" of the plan Feb. 14, 2019, Arizona Statehood Day — only six months from the commission's vote to open the new docket. That would be quick for an ACC rulemaking proceeding, which can take up to a year.
- The new energy strategy would require utilities to supply 80% renewable or nuclear power by 2050. The Clean Resource Energy Standard and Tariff also includes a 3 GW storage target utilities must reach by 2030.
Arizona regulators are wrestling with how to modernize the state's electricity grid.
In March, Arizona regulators denied the 15-year Integrated Resource Plans filed by the state's investor-owned utilities, directing them to consider more renewables and less gas-fired energy. Then the ACC went a step farther and instituted a nine-month moratorium on gas projects over 150 MW.
"We have made significant progress by halting certain utility plant investments without having a comprehensive plan, but that was always intended to be a temporary step," Tobin said in a statement. The moratorium was "imperative because it bought the Commission time to develop a comprehensive clean energy plan."
The AEMP was first proposed almost a year ago, but the new rulemaking docket was opened in August. According to Tobin, a typical Arizona rulemaking takes anywhere from six months to a year to complete, but by accelerating some steps the commission could reduce the time to 120 days.
"Our new rulemaking docket is just the first step," said Tobin. "It's not as fast as I'd like it to be, but I want everyone who's been watching to know that it is moving in the right direction."
In addition to the clean energy standard and storage mandates, the AEMP would install a 15% clean peak standard by 2030. It also calls for utilities to deploy electric vehicle charging stations, and prioritizes the use of excess transmission capacity.
In an effort to address wildfire risks, the AEMP also calls for 60 MW of biomass capacity to operate for 20 years. It is an expensive resource and will raise monthly bills by about $1, but Tobin said it will save money in the long run by reducing wildfires in the state.
"I've been saying this since January: getting this plan passed before we miss the 2020 fire season is of the utmost importance," Tobin said.
- Arizona Corporation Commission Letter from Commissioner Andy Tobin
Follow Robert Walton on Twitter