Leaders look toward strong energy policy even during current crisis

This story was originally published in the Arizona Capitol Times on April 28th, 2020 here.

Leaders across the country—and the world—have spent the last few months dealing with unprecedented challenges, as COVID-19 has eclipsed the day-to-day policy priorities of local, state, and national governments alike. Yet, even while our leaders focus on policies to keep our communities safe and healthy during this crisis, including ensuring essential services—like electricity—remain reliable, they must also continue to look toward the future, when the crisis will invariably end and we return to business-as-usual.

In Arizona, our leaders and utilities have proven they can do both. Just recently, Gov. Doug Ducey announced a critical electric utility relief package in which the state’s largest electric utilities agreed to continue to provide reliable electricity to homes, hospitals, and businesses while making sure that Arizona residents facing financial difficulties will have reliable access to electricity. In addition, many of the state’s water providers have committed to uninterrupted service and delaying disconnections during this time; internet service providers like Cox and CenturyLink have taken it a step further by expanding access and removing data-usage limits and overage charges.

Even with all the necessary focus on COVID-19, Arizona’s leaders are also looking ahead to ensure Arizona remains strong and competitive after this crisis ends. One area in which that is happening is the update to Arizona’s Energy Rules. While the Arizona Corporation Commission has been working to develop a new policy on clean energy, energy storage, and energy efficiency for the past several years, until now progress has been slow.

There are signs that may be changing. On March 20, Commissioner Lea Marquez Peterson issued a letter calling on her fellow Commissioners to pass a policy that would require regulated electric utilities to generate 100 percent of their power from clean energy resources by 2050, explaining:

“Adopting a 100 percent clean energy policy today will send a clear and unambiguous signal to utilities, and current and future customers, that Arizona is moving forward with a cleaner and more affordable energy future, while allowing data, free-market principles and least-cost energy resources guide our utilities on how to get there.”

Commissioner Peterson’s approach is a sound one. By moving forward with a clean energy goal now and a commitment to working out the details of how Arizona will achieve that goal over the coming months and years, the Arizona Corporation Commission will provide the long-term market certainty necessary to drive technology and innovation in the energy sector. It will also spur critical rural economic development efforts and reflect what Arizonans want to see from their utilities and regulators. And, because market forces have rapidly driven down the price of renewable energy sources, they now represent the lowest cost energy option. Encouragingly, several other Commissioners have also indicated their interest in updating Arizona’s energy rules this year.

In Arizona, our leaders and utilities have proven that they are prepared to step up to take care of consumers during this unprecedented crisis, while still looking ahead to the future by working toward a strong energy policy for the state that will modernize Arizona’s energy sector, drive economic development, and help repair some of the economic damage wrought by this novel virus. That is something for which all Arizonans can be proud.

Doran Arik Miller is the Arizona Director for The Western Way (www.thewesternway.org)

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