480,464 residents of Arizona have signed a state initiative to create a state constitutional amendment that would require 50% of electricity to come from renewable sources by 2030. The number of signatures is more than double the requirement of 225,963 signatures. The number of required signatures changes from election to election since the requirement is 15% of the number of previous vote cast for governor in the previous election. Come voting day, a simple 50% majority of voters is all that is needed to pass the initiative.
Accordingly to the initiative, here are the qualifying renewable energy sources:
It is important to note that nuclear power is not included in the list. Arizona Public Service Company (APS) owns a large nuclear plant and it is complaining about this aspect of the mandate. The good news is should the initiative pass, having the nuclear power plant for all intents and purposes would requires APS to invest more in battery storage.
This new mandate builds on a decade-old mandate of 15% by 2025. Currently, Arizona Public Service Company, the state’s largest utility, generates 12% of its electricity from renewables. Tuscon Electric Power fares a little better at 13%. More and more state mandates are focusing on the year 2030. While 100% targets make for an exciting headlines they often push the date out to 2050. The 2030 timeline makes a lot of practical sense. We need investment now, to continue to bring cost declines, and that is what this initiative does.
Aside from the 2030 target, it mandates progressive yearly targets. The targets are as follows:
In addition to the renewable energy targets, the initiative also mandates a certain amount most come from distributed renewable sources such as rooftop solar. The annual targets are as follows.
Each utility must reach the distributed mandate no exceptions; however, the initiative does create a credit system so a utility may have opportunity to purchase a credit from another utility who exceeds the mandate.
The initiative does not lay out specific enforcement rules and regulations. It delegates this action to the state’s Corporation Commission. However, the initiative does require the Corporation Commission to make the necessary rules to enforce the mandate by no later than December 31, 2019. The entire initiative is only five pages long and can be read here.
Arizona has the best solar resources in the country, and a target like this is a no-brainer. The initiative was organized by Clean Energy for a Healthy Arizona. The non-profit is backed by California billionaire Tom Steyer, and many Arizona publications are devoting a large portion of their reporting to that fact, so the initiative may be fighting an uphill battle. No one is paying for polling on the issue as of yet.
The utility companies will fight the initiative, and they will throw out their many lies about how this will drastically increase the cost to ratepayers. Opponents have already begun to challenge the signatures claiming many signatures were collected by felons and are therefore not valid. The signatures must be certified by the Secretary of State. According to Ballotpedia, “If the random sampling indicates that valid signatures equal to between 95 percent and 105 percent of the required number were submitted, a full check of all signatures is required. If the random sampling shows fewer signatures, the petition fails. If the random sampling shows more, the initiative is certified for the ballot.”
The link above to Ballotpedia has a nice summary of all 29 state Renewable Portfolio Standards (RPS). Only California and New York have an RPS of 50% by 2030. Of course, both those states are blue, so passage of this mandate would be an impressive step. The only RPS which may be considered stronger than this mandate is Hawaii’s RPS which requires 95% by 2045.
I have tried and failed to find out if the referendum fails, can it be voted on again in a future election? The referendum process allows the petition to be circulated for 2 years. Since as many 15 million self-identified environmentalists did not vote in a past election it would be wise for Democrats to regularly have environmental referendums on the ballot. I encourage you to find out about efforts in your state to pass referendums on renewable energy and environmental issues.
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