Regulator Wants 80 Percent Clean Energy In Arizona By 2050

By Will Stone
Published: Tuesday, January 30, 2018 - 4:26pm

A state regulator wants the majority of Arizona’s electricity to come from clean energy sources by 2050.

On Tuesday, Arizona Corporation Commissioner Andy Tobin released a plan that would give Arizona one of the most aggressive renewable energy goals in the country: 80 percent by 2050. The state’s current target is 15 percent by 2025.

The proposal encourages more battery storage, biomas-related fuels, energy efficiency and new infrastructure for electric vehicles. It also aims to better align Arizona’s renewable energy mix with demand.

“Solar energy in Arizona is basically at the cost of fuel,” said Lon Huber, a consultant with the state’s Residential Utility Consumer Office.

“This plan envisions using those cheap renewable electrons and shift[ing] them to the time it is needed and therefore avoiding traditional infrastructure that would need to be in place during those peak times,” Huber said.

The plan would also include existing nuclear energy as part of the 80 percent clean energy goal, a move generally not supported by renewable energy advocates.

Kris Mayes, a professor at Arizona State University and former commissioner, said that may lower the mix of renewables like solar and wind to only 50 or 60 percent, but that isn’t a big concern to her given the target.

“That is still a pretty ambitious and worthy goal and essentially it means the state is going to need to build a lot more clean energy projects: solar, wind energy storage, electric vehicles and energy efficiency,” she said.

Mayes said she thinks the plan will leave room for all kinds of renewables, including rooftop solar, which has been the subject of fierce debate in Arizona between utilities and the solar industry.

She thinks the proposal is different from California’s, which plans to have 50 percent of its energy come from renewables by 2030.

“This is not a mandate-type approach,” Mayes said. “We are going to set this goal that will create the marketplace and we have the ingenuity and innovation in Arizona to develop projects to meet that goal.”