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Regulator Wants 80 Percent Clean Energy In Arizona By 2050

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.”

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.