The attempt to deregulate electricity in Arizona and to reduce Renewable Energy Standard and Tariff (REST) standards

Posted by AzBlueMeanie:

SolarEalier this year, Republican Arizona Corporation Commissioner Gary Pierce proposed but later withdrew a plan that would have effectively reduced the
renewable-energy procurement requirement under the state’s Renewable Energy Standard and Tariff (REST) for Arizona Public Service Co.
by excluding more large customers from the formula used to calculate
total retail sales, in which the standard is based. Cuts to renewable-energy incentives blasted – Arizona Daily Star:

[APS] interpreted the proposal to mean the commission would effectively
reduce its standard requiring utilities to obtain 15 percent of their
retail energy sales from renewable sources by 2025 to 13.35 percent for
APS.

Utilities are required to meet certain goals each year as they work
up to the 15 percent standard, and APS is currently ahead, Rebecca
Wilder, spokeswoman for the Arizona Corporation Commission, said.

But Wilder said that in order to reduce the standard, the commission
would have to reopen and revise the 2006 regulations, which she said it
has no plans to do.

Jenna Shaver, an APS spokeswoman, said the utility understands and
supports the commission's decision to cut back on renewable-energy
incentives.

She said Pierce's proposal, although it was withdrawn, is expected to
be brought back later this year and would go into effect next year if
it passes.

That time has arrived. In recent weeks The Arizona Republic has been publishing a series of reports and commentary laying the groundwork in support of this proposal. The Republic published a series titled Partly cloudy: Arizona's solar future in late July under these subheadings, with additional reporting:

Emerging solar industry faces uncertain future (July 28, 2013)

Solar out of reach for many (July 29, 2013)

How much solar aid is enough? (July 31, 2013)

Solar company under inquiry (August 2, 2013)

Solar not a lock to make it big (August 4, 2013)

The Republic's principal concern: "Arizona Public Service Co. faces an onslaught of regulatory issues that could affect its business this year…" APS to take on rules issues, including deregulation, solar credits (August 2, 2013):

The most pressing issue is the Arizona Corporation Commission’s
consideration of deregulating retail electricity. Under deregulation,
big utilities would still control the power grid and distribution of
electricity, but customers would be able to choose who provides the
electricity itself.

In May, the Arizona Corporation Commission voted to examine such a
move. Interested parties are filing their comments with regulators now,
and meetings on the issue could begin this fall. APS is opposed.

“Once the commission has the chance to review all the comments and
reply comments, they will have a good sense there are not too many good
opportunities here for Arizona customers, and significant risk and cost
that are almost a virtual certainty,” Don Brandt, president/CEO of APS
parent company Pinnacle West Capital Corp. told investors Friday.

He conducted the conference call to review second-quarter profit, but
the looming regulatory changes dominated the discussion. APS has asked
for sweeping changes to how much credit it gives customers with rooftop
solar for their electricity
. It also has a pending deal to acquire a
bigger stake in a New Mexico coal-fired power plant.

Brandt said he expects a swift decision from the five elected
corporation commissioners on deregulation, unlike the state’s last foray
into competitive electric markets.

* * *

Brandt said proponents are in the minority.

“Where I sit now, I think we could count the number of customers that
are proponents of so-called deregulation on one hand,” he said. “And
I’m looking at a list of 153 organizations, elected officials, chambers,
numerous other business leaders, leaders of the Arizona Senate, the
House of Representatives, numerous mayors, city managers and other local
elected officials across state that have come out strongly against it. I
don’t think the proponents of deregulation necessarily counted on the
negative reaction it has received.”

The commission also must decide how APS will credit rooftop-solar
customers for their power.
The policy is referred to as “net metering”
because solar customers get credits for the kilowatt-hours their solar
panels send to the grid and are charged for the net amount of
electricity they use.

“The net-metering discussion makes the deregulation discussion more
complex,” said Jeff Guldner, APS senior vice president of customers and
regulation.

Back in April 2012, APS ended its ALEC membership; SRP considers doing same. That does not mean its former ALEC corporate partners and Arizona Tea-Publican politicians who are members of ALEC are not active supporters. Daily Kos reports today, ALEC takes a 13-0 beating in fossil-fueled effort to gut states' renewable energy standards:

Nearly three-fifths of the states have established renewable energy
standards. That rises to three-fourths when renewable energy goals
are included. The standards mandate how much electricity utility
companies, including municipally owned utilities, must generate by a
certain date from solar, wind, geothermal, hydro, biomass and other
renewable sources. And the folks at the American Legislative Exchange
Council (ALEC), who are celebrating their 40th birthday at the group's
annual convention in Chicago this week, worked in their usual
behind-the-scenes way in the past seven months to dump those standards.

They failed. Not just once. But in every state where they attacked.

* * *

The folks at ALEC, funded by the brothers Koch and Exxon Mobil, among
others, made it a priority at their annual convention in Salt Lake City
last year to go after the renewable energy standards, according to Matt Kasper at Think Progress.

ALEC's Energy, Environment, and Agriculture Task Force—heavily
influenced by the fossil fuel industry and whose public sector chairman
is veteran Republican Rep. David Wolkins of Indiana—adopted the Electricity Freedom Act.
a model bill designed to repeal or weaken state renewable energy
standards. ALEC partnered with the Heartland Institute, the climate
change-denying libertarian think tank that ran a billboard campaign
linking climate activists to Unabomber Ted Kaczynski, Charles Manson and
Fidel Castro. They also brought the right-wing John Locke Foundation,
Grover Norquist, the American Conservative Union and Americans for Tax
Reform aboard for the fight. They were involved in 13 states.

And they lost big time. Not a single state in the ALEC crosshairs repealed its standards. Indeed, Minnesota raised its mandate.

As Jim Malewitz at Stateline reported:

“ALEC’s attempt to squash clean energy standards in the
states has failed,” said Gabe Elsner, director of the Washington
D.C.-based Checks and Balances Project, a self-described government and
industry watchdog group. “I thought they would have had more success.”
[…]

Meanwhile, Colorado doubled its mandate for rural electric
cooperatives, requiring 20 percent of their energy sales by 2020 to come
from renewable resources. In Minnesota major utilities now must
generate 1.5 percent of their power from solar—on top of the 25 percent
by 2025 for renewables at large.

This doesn't, of course, mean that ALEC will give up. [See the Arizona Corporation Commission.]

* * *

But what these defeats show is that ALEC is no all-powerful juggernaut.
It can be beaten. And progressives should make every effort to extend
these defeats into the whole range of legislation that ALEC and its
corporate backers are trying to impose in so many states. Not merely
fighting against new legislation but repealing the crap ALEC has already
gotten onto the books to our detriment.

So if you strongly support the development and support of solar and other renewable energy sources in Arizona, and you want to preserve our modest Renewable Energy Standard and Tariff (REST) standards, you need to make your voices heard at the Arizona Corporation Commission.

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