Arizona Corporation Commission Lets APS Keep Customers in the Energy Dark Ages

Arizona Corporation Commission Lets APS Keep Customers in the Energy Dark Ages

Photo courtesy Chispa AZ.

By Vianey Olivarría

September 1, 2023
Arizonans are weathering record-breaking triple-digit days — shattering two electricity demand records and surpassing the 1974 record of consecutive days over 110 degrees — just in the last few weeks alone. At the same time, the Arizona Corporation Commission (ACC) came together this Thursday to hold a public hearing — not about the heat, but about Arizona Public Service’s (APS) latest request to increase electricity rates even more.

Arizona’s average energy bills are already the 6th highest in the country, so it’s no surprise many people, Chispa members and staff included, turned out to speak at this hearing in pain and frustration. APS tells us to close our blinds and turn up the thermostat by a few degrees — but individual consumers cannot solve this problem. APS needs to pursue real solutions that lower our electricity bills, decrease our reliance on fossil fuels, and improve the reliability of our electric grid.

Instead, they’re continuing to stonewall our clean energy progress and asking us to pay more for their neglect of sustainable solutions. Once again, APS prioritizes profits over people.

Commissioners Backtrack on Clean Energy Standards

Arizona was once on track toward expanding its clean energy portfolio. As recently as 2018, a broad group of bipartisan stakeholders worked to develop clean energy standards. These rules would have supported more renewable energy resource development, focused on lowering our carbon emissions, and would have lowered consumer costs.

But over the last few years, two ACC commissioners — who originally supported new clean energy standards — withdrew their commitments, effectively thwarting these proposals. Commissioners cited unfounded concerns with potential rate increases, and their belief that utilities could regulate themselves by working towards their own self-imposed clean energy goals.

Beliefs don’t translate into accountability, nor do they ensure our state will end our reliance on dirty energy.

As a result, Arizona continues relying heavily on fossil fuels, perpetuating the status quo and costing families and businesses more money. Not only is this plan untenable, it’s taking us backwards. That’s where we are today — on the verge of another rate increase without any guarantee that utilities will stick to their commitments.

Too Reliant on Unsustainable Energy Sources

Studies show that our over-reliance on fossil fuels is costly, unsustainable, and hits communities of color hardest. And just last summer, 40% of Phoenix ratepayers reported they were struggling to pay their electric bill. Since then, inflation has soared, climate change has worsened, and action towards solutions has stalled. Communities are in crisis, and we need to act now to prevent these conditions from worsening.

At Chispa Arizona, and in coalition with the leading grassroots organizations of color in the state — Activate 48 — we’re fighting to make cleaner, cheaper renewable resources available to our communities.

We’re calling on the ACC to establish a robust community solar program that would provide ratepayers with access to cleaner, cheaper energy in their backyards. Even 200 megawatts of customer-owned or leased energy storage systems would produce almost $5 billion in new state gross domestic product (GDP). And with an average of 300 sunny days per year, failing to establish this program means squandering a prime economic and energy sustainability opportunity.

We’re also again asking for a carbon-free electricity standard that would require Arizona Public Service and Tucson Electric Power to be 100% carbon-free by 2050, with milestones to reduce their carbon emissions by 50% by 2032 and 75% by 2040.

Let Arizona Become the Green Energy Leader It Deserves to Be

Arizona is primed to be a national leader in green energy resource development, and our communities deserve a clean and safe future that protects both their pocketbooks and their health. But we need to urgently prioritize these strategies and coordinate around their implementation to ensure these resources are responsive to the communities that need them most.

Instead of allowing utilities like APS to continue their irrational investments in dirty energy resources, we’re calling on the ACC to join us in prioritizing communities over corporations. The Commission should deny this rate increase and instead prioritize stronger, more accessible programs and standards that increase Arizonans’ access to renewable energy resources.

Arizonans deserve real solutions — not more rate hikes. And shifting away from fossil fuels is the only way to secure a better, more equitable energy future for generations of Arizonans to come.

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