Western Resource Advocates today noted that the Arizona Corporation Commission’s vote to begin the formal process to update the state’s Energy Rules to require a 100% carbon emissions reduction by 2050 is an important step in addressing climate change and realizing the economic benefits of zero-carbon energy.
“The addition of a carbon reduction standard will help reduce the fossil-fuel emissions that drive climate change and allow Arizona to better embrace the economic opportunities of increased zero-carbon energy use,” said Adam Stafford, Western Resource Advocates’ staff attorney in Phoenix. “Our state’s major utilities — Arizona Public Service, Tucson Electric Power, and Salt River Project — have each committed to reducing their carbon emissions and increasing renewable energy generation, and a new state standard will help ensure those goals are met within the timeframe that the scientific consensus tells us is needed to avoid the worst impacts of climate change. We are pleased that the Arizona Corporation Commission has begun the process to adopt a standard that requires utilities to measure their carbon emissions and meet reduction targets, and we look forward to working with the commission to ensure the carbon emission measurements are accurate and meaningful.”
The commission approved the update today through a 4-1, bipartisan vote. The new Energy Rules update calls for the state’s utilities to be 100% carbon-free by 2050, with interim carbon dioxide reductions of 75% by 2040 and 50% by 2032.
Tucson Electric Power this past June announced plans to reduce its carbon emissions by 80 percent and provide 70 percent of its electricity generation from renewable energy resources by 2035 — the most aggressive commitment to reducing emissions by a utility in Arizona. Last January, Arizona Public Service set a goal of achieving 45 percent renewable energy by 2030 and 100 percent carbon-free electricity by 2050. And in 2019, Salt River Project made sustainability commitments to cut carbon dioxide emissions 43 percent by 2035, with further reductions by 2050.
The new Arizona Corporation Commission Energy Rules update will create a framework to ensure that the state’s utilities reduce their carbon emissions that contribute to climate change. Arizona already is experiencing serious effects of climate change. Phoenix and Tucson are two of the hottest cities in the United States. During the past 20 years, Arizona and other states across the Southwest have experienced megadrought driven by climate change. Recent reports also have shown Phoenix once again ranks among the nation’s 10 worst cities for dangerous ozone and particulate air pollution, in this time of pandemic when we are all too aware of the connection between air quality and our health.
Alignment between the Arizona Corporation Commission’s Energy Rules and utility carbon commitments helps to align state and corporate policy goals, thereby creating needed regulatory certainty that drives investment and innovation.
Accelerating a zero-carbon energy transition in Arizona would help mitigate the harmful effects of climate change and has the potential to drive further economic development in the state. The ACC vote today starts the formal rulemaking process. Before the Energy Rule update can become final, the commission will accept public comment on the proposal. The rule could become final next year.