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Arizona to Cut Solar Rebates – Because Utilities Add a Percent of Renewables Annually???

When Arizona went from the bluest of governors to the reddest, its renewable policy was sidelined accordingly. When the state’s new Governor Brewer (R) moved in to the governor’s mansion, she immediately nixed the Western Regional Climate Action Initiative that former Governor Janet Napolitano (D) initiated and governors of California, New Mexico, Oregon and Washington signed in 2007, to reduce greenhouse gas emissions from their five states.

Now she is exiting the state’s extremely modest Renewable Energy Standard, as well. The Arizona Corporation Commission(AZCC) is now preparing to consider reducing solar incentives because the utilities are on track for meeting the requirement, that was begun in 2006, of beginning to add about a percent of renewable energy annually to get to 15% by 2025.

The order recommends setting the residential solar incentive at $0.85/watt, with an automatic trigger that would cut it to $0.70/watt if 45 percent of the funds are reserved by June 30, 2012. For non-residential projects, staff recommends cutting the incentive from $1.75/watt to $0.85/watt. This would reduce the homeowners discount on a solar roof to about $850 -off the upfront cost of a 1 KW solar roof.

In Europe, when utilites exceeded their initial target early on, talk turned to making a new higher target, not a lower one! The entire point of clean energy policy is to add more of it, because it is the solution to climate change, along with more immediate health and clean air benefits. There is no downside to getting 100% of our energy from renewables, and if a small beginner target is achievable, the common sense next step should be to raise the bar a little, nudging progress along.

But Arizona’s AZCC is nevertheless preparing to gut 2012 implementation plans for Arizona Public Service and other investor-owned utilities under the state’s renewable energy standard (RES) program, with the goal of reducing the requirement. As a result, homeowners will get almost no help in the sunny, and  state in putting up a solar roof.

Since the law has been in effect, it has survived almost never-ending court challenge by the Goldwater Institute (previous: Arizona Renewable Energy Standard Under Attack From Right.) The biggest coal power producer since 1992, Arizona Public Service (APS) owns 4 GW of coal capacity, including the oldest 3 units at the Four Corners coal power plant: dating back to the 1960s.

Since 2006, the modest RES, and the now-dismantled membership in Napolitano’s WCCI spawned a host of solar projects and helped make Arizona the third-ranking state in the number of solar-industry jobs. In fact, local solar investors are beginning to aquire some real political clout to oppose the fossil industry as I noted in  Big Solar Kills Kill-Solar Bill.

Stay tuned.

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writes at CleanTechnica, CSP-Today and Renewable Energy World.  She has also been published at Wind Energy Update, Solar Plaza, Earthtechling PV-Insider , and GreenProphet, Ecoseed, NRDC OnEarth, MatterNetwork, Celsius, EnergyNow, and Scientific American. As a former serial entrepreneur in product design, Susan brings an innovator's perspective on inventing a carbon-constrained civilization: If necessity is the mother of invention, solving climate change is the mother of all necessities! As a lover of history and sci-fi, she enjoys chronicling the strange future we are creating in these interesting times.    Follow Susan on Twitter @dotcommodity.


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