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Arizona Regulator Wants To Revise Renewable Energy Standards

UA Tech Park
(Photo courtesy of UA Tech Park)
UA Tech Park in Tucson.

Arizona could have new goals for how much of its energy comes from renewable sources. 

On Monday, Arizona Corporation Commission Chairman Doug Little opened a new docket to revise the state's Renewable Energy Standards and Tariff rules (REST).

Little said 30 percent renewables by 2030 should be Arizona’s new target. The current goal is 15 percent by 2025. 

Little said the current rules were developed when the technology and markets for wind and solar were in their infancy. But as costs have dropped significantly, he believes the commission needs to reevaluate incentives, including whether a “carve out” for distributed generation still makes sense. 

"I'm not saying they don't. I'm not saying they do," Little told KJZZ.

“I'm saying that we need to look at it because the whole purpose behind the carve out was to encourage a particular segment, and that segment right now is a huge industry in the United State, it’s not a tiny thing anymore," he said, noting the level of penetration for rooftop solar has grown substantially. 

The carve out requires that 30 percent of the renewable mix comes from distributed generation like rooftop solar.  

The commission is also currently trying to determine the real value of rooftop solar— in comparison to other forms of energy— and those findings will impact any new standards, Little said. 

Little said they should also consider net-metering, which reimburses solar customers hooked up to the grid for their excess power, during this process of revising the REST rules. However, he said that could mean finding new methods of compensating customers for their energy, not simply changing the rate. 

But some like Kris Mayes, who’s a former corporation commissioner now representing solar interests, are already concerned. 

“It [the carve out] says to the utilities, you can’t own it all," Mayes said. "The commission has to be very careful about eliminating that carve out because that gives each individual consumer the opportunity to go solar," she said.

Mayes said much will depend on whether the commission assigns an accurate value and not an "illegitimate number" to rooftop solar. "It could put all the power so-to-speak over renewable energy in the hands of big utilities," Mayes said. 

Will Stone grew up with the sounds of public radio. As a senior field correspondent, he strives to tell the same kind of powerful stories that got him into the business — whether that means trudging through some distant corner of the Sonoran Desert or uncovering an unknown injustice right down the street. Since joining the KJZZ newsroom in 2015, he has covered political scandals, fights over the future of energy, and efforts to care for some of Arizona’s most vulnerable communities. His pieces have also aired on national programs like Morning Edition, All Things Considered, Here & Now and Marketplace. Before coming to KJZZ, he reported for public radio stations in Nevada and Connecticut. Stone received his degree in English literature from Haverford College, where he also wrote about the arts and culture scene in Philadelphia. After graduating, he interned at NPR West in Culver City, California, where he learned from some of the network’s veteran reporters and editors. When he doesn’t have a mic in hand, Stone enjoys climbing mountains, running through his central Phoenix neighborhood and shamelessly promoting his cat, Barry.