Important energy issues abound in 2010 AZ Corporation Commission election - Ahwatukee Foothills News: Opinion

Important energy issues abound in 2010 AZ Corporation Commission election

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Posted: Thursday, August 12, 2010 11:00 am | Updated: 8:16 am, Thu Dec 2, 2010.

The next Arizona Corporation Commission will determine policies that impact the daily lives of Arizonans perhaps more than most well-known elected offices in the state. Established by the Arizona Constitution, the Commission regulates public utilities, corporate filings and securities, and railroad and pipeline safety. This fall, Arizona voters will elect two commissioners to the five-person Commission.

Candidates elected in 2010 will have an unprecedented opportunity to guide Arizona's energy policy into the future. The Arizona Public Interest Research Group (Arizona PIRG) Education Fund has released Energy Policy Considerations for the Arizona Corporation Commission, a briefing book detailing the energy policy options with which the new Commission will be faced. The book describes policy options that will be available to the Commission as it decides whether or not to facilitate a transition from an energy portfolio dominated by inefficient and non-renewable resources, such as coal, to one comprised of energy efficient and renewable resources, such as solar and wind.

Most Arizonans are aware that energy efficiency consists of reducing the amount of energy needed to perform a specific task and is an immediate, proven and effective way to save ratepayers money. However, most Arizonans are probably not aware that the next Commission will in all likelihood be faced with implementing energy efficiency policies that can also benefit Arizona's economy and increase service reliability.

The next Commission will also determine whether Arizona continues to pursue a diversified energy portfolio by increasing its renewable energy resources. Currently, Arizona's Renewable Energy Standard, for utilities regulated by the Commission, is 15 percent by 2025. The next Commission can decide to increase the standard, which can make Arizona competitive with nearby states in terms of renewable energy production.

In addition, the next Commission will influence the future of energy transmission in Arizona. All sufficiently sizeable transmission proposals in Arizona must be approved by the Arizona Power Plant and Line Siting Committee and a majority vote of the Commission. The two entities are separate and the Commission assesses transmission adequacy based on 10-year transmission plans filed by each utility under Arizona's Biennial Transmission Assessment requirement.

Among issues the Commission will decide are whether and how to add new resources to state transmission lines, how to balance utility interests with ratepayer needs in resolving contractual transmission constraints, and how to schedule resource production and transmission planning.

The decisions the next Arizona Corporation Commission makes in setting energy efficiency, renewable energy and energy transmission policy will significantly impact citizens of our state for years to come.

The Arizona PIRG Education Fund's Energy Policy Considerations for the Arizona Corporation Commission provides definitions and background, current policies in Arizona, policies under consideration and recommended next steps for the Arizona Corporation Commission.

Voters are encouraged to download the briefing book and learn about these important issues at http://www.arizonapirg.org.

Ben Kitto is with the Arizona Public Interest Research Group (Arizona PIRG) Education Fund and can be reached at (602) 252-4058.

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