Arizona Renewable Energy Standard Under Attack From Right

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In 24 states; the Renewable Energy Standard (RES) has driven what clean new energy the US has.


In the absence of such legislation The Invisible Hand has tended to find that utilities should just continue to source their electricity from traditional sources, with the result that states that do not have an RES have the unhealthiest electricity in the nation.

Arizona was one of the healthy energy states, with a requirement for 15% renewable energy by 2025. But now a Republican state representative in the Arizona state legislature is challenging the right of the Arizona Corporation Commission to set a requirement that utilities add more renewable energy, with a bill that would strip them of the responsibility.

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The ACC passed its RES for Arizona in 2006, setting a target for utilities to get 15 percent of their energy from renewable sources by 2025.

In Arizona, as in most states, the electric utilities have long been regulated at the state level by public commissions that are semi-governmental bodies; originally set up to oversee the public interest in common goods like water and electricity, back in the days when the legislature was more able to protect the American people from the robber barons of the day.

The legislation the state lawmaker  Carl Seel introduced is the next step in an anti-renewable energy campaign mounted by the conservative think tank; the Goldwater Institute, on behalf of several customers of the state’s largest utility, and is aimed at overturning the ruling on renewable energy.

Originally, the Goldwater Institute filed suit after the RES was made law. The lawsuit questioned the constitutionality of forcing electric utilities like the Arizona Public Service Co to meet certain levels of renewable energy in their portfolio or to levy a tariff through customer bills to help pay for it. For example, recently the ACC allowed a $1 charge to be added to bills averaging $77 a month, for new wind farms. The judge ruled against them.

The Arizona Supreme Court sided with the ACC and its right to regulate utilities “in the absence of any  legislation” that would challenge that right.

Now, the Republican congressman for Phoenix has come up with precisely such legislation: challenging and removing that right of the ACC to mandate renewable energy standards, with House Bill 2381.

Theoretically, the institute, named after conservative icon Barry Goldwater would litigate any government management of the economy. However, the group has notably mounted no lawsuits regarding other ACC-imposed tariffs, for example, when they pay for new nuclear, natural gas or coal plants.

Image: Atlantic

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