Talk about your energy efficiency.
It took an Arizona judge just eight pages to explain why a libertarian group’s 37-page argument against renewable energy incentives was wrong. A single paragraph did the trick, really; the rest was preamble, case-law and commentary.
Maricopa County Superior Court Judge Joseph B. Heilman ruled yesterday that the Arizona Corporation Commission’s authority to set the rates that utilities can charge for electricity, extends to rules and regulations that are “reasonable and necessary” to setting those rates.
The crux of the case is a set of rules known as the Renewable Energy Standard and Tariff (REST). It encourages the growth of alternative power sources by mandating that utilities generate a portion of their electricity from renewable sources such as solar, wind or biomass. The good news for the utilities is that REST allows them to offset some of the cost by raising electrical rates for all customers.
Supporters of energy diversification greeted Wednesday’s ruling with enthusiasm. The Phoenix Business Journal quoted ACC Commissioner Paul Newman as saying “This ruling gives the ACC the necessary tools to incentivize and grow the solar and wind industry in Arizona.”
Sandy Bahr, head of the Arizona chapter of the Sierra Club, showed her approval of Wednesday’s decision in a Facebook posting that read:
“Hooray! [T]his is an important decision for helping to keep what we have and for advancing renewable energy use in our state.”
Not surprisingly, the other side saw the ruling much differently. A press release issued by the Goldwater Institute
yesterday, quoted lead attorney Clint Bolick condemning Judge Heilman’s apparent endorsement of the “unprecedented power-grab by a renegade agency” and warned that the plan will increase power bills for Arizona residents by “at least $2.4 billion beyond the cost of conventional generation.”
That last claim has raised some eyebrows around the Grand Canyon State. A “friend of the court” brief filed by the Arizona Center for Law in the Public Interest, points out that the REST rules had their genesis in a 2004 study by the ACC showing that Arizona’s dependence on volatile and dwindling fuel supplies would lead to higher electrical prices for customers. On November 14, 2006, the ACC approved the REST rules specifically to broaden the state’s energy mix and keep prices down.
Adam Browning, founder of the San Francisco-based Vote Solar Initiative, told The Phoenix Sun that a lot was riding on this decision. “If [the decision] had gone the other way,” he wrote in an email, “then the ACC would have been neutered, and the renewable rules would have been vacated.”
The Phoenix-based Goldwater Institute has indicated it may appeal Wednesday’s decision.