New Arizona renewable ballot initiative could spark utility opposition
- A group of environmental, clean energy and public health advocates is seeking to place a measure on the upcoming November election ballot that would require Arizona utilities to reach 50% renewable energy by 2030 — a goal on par with California.
- While the measure has yet to make it on the ballot — it needs 150,000 signatures by July to do so — it could spark another war between utilities and clean energy advocates, reports the Energy and Policy Institute, a liberal watchdog group.
- The initiative is backed by billionaire Tom Steyer, who heads a political group NextGen America that focuses on climate change, and is one of three similar ballot initiatives currently circulating nationwide, according to ThinkProgress. The ballot measure comes weeks after Arizona Corporation Commissioner Andy Tobin proposed raising the Renewable Portfolio Standard to 80% of clean energy by 2050 — which would include nuclear.
Arizona is looking like it could be a hotspot to watch in the upcoming 2018 elections over clean energy. The state has long been on the front lines for intense battles over rooftop solar policy, even making national headlines. Now a new ballot initiative could see some familiar battle lines being drawn as state residents and officials decide where to direct Arizona's clean energy future.
A few weeks ago, Commissioner Tobin introduced a proposal that would require utilities to produce 80% of their power from clean energy resources by 2050 while also deploying 3,000 MW of energy storage. The proposal also included a so-called "Clean Peak Standard," which would require utilities to provide an increasing portion of their renewable energy during peak electricity demand hours, in turn spurring storage deployment.
The state has already met its 15% RPS standard, with utility energy efficiency targets ending in 2020. And while these proposals are rolling out this year, the state's utilities are focusing on more natural gas investment. APS, the biggest utility in the state, wants to add 5.3 GW of gas generation by 2030, more than doubling its gas capacity, according to its latest Integrated Resource Plan filed 10 months ago.
Tobin has also forged ahead in efforts to prolong the life of the Navajo Generating Station, a 2,250 MW coal plant that's one of the biggest in the West. In an emailed statement to Utility Dive at the time Tobin announced his proposal, APS refrained from expressing outright support, but praised the plan for recognizing "the critical role emission-free nuclear energy plays in any serious plan for clean Arizona energy." The utility also owns a stake in the Palo Verde nuclear facility, which is slated to retire in the 2040s.
But the ballot measure would lean on renewable energy, and unlike Tobin's proposal, would exclude nuclear. It's unclear whether or not APS would curtail its investment in gas for now based on its IRP, though the utility has announced a suite of notable solar and storage projects the past year.
In a statement provided to Utility Dive, APS said, "This ballot initiative is apparently one of many that its financial backers are filing around the country this week, and we have many questions about the actual language."
Some of those questions include whether or not it requires a Constitutional amendment and impacts on reliability and consumer rates, APS added.
- Energy and Policy Institute APS will try to kill renewable energy ballot measure so that it can keep building gas plants
- The Arizona Republic Ballot initiative aims to increase Arizona's use of renewable energy
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