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Arizona focuses on renewable energy

WASHINGTON, March 28 (UPI) -- A proposal made by the Arizona Corporation Commission that will require 15 percent of electricity generated to come from renewable sources by 2025 brings Arizona to the forefront of states with aggressive renewable portfolio standards.

The ACC, a state government agency responsible for regulating utilities and businesses, developed Arizona's original, and the nation's first, renewable portfolio standard in 1999, Heather Murphey, a spokeswoman for body, told United Press International.

A renewable portfolio standard ensures that a minimum percentage of a state's electricity production come from renewable sources such as wind power, solar power, hydropower, or biomass. Normally a state's energy portfolio is dominated by electricity produced from fossil fuels.

"After reviewing the original portfolio in 2004, the commissioners saw a need to make the standard more aggressive and more forward thinking," Murphey said.

The commissioners suspected in 1999 that new technologies might emerge in five years and that the portfolio would need revision in 2004, she added.

"For example, in 1999, generating wind power was not a possibility for Arizona, whereas studies done in 2004 and 2005 show that it's not only a possibility but a likelihood," Murphey said.

She also stressed the importance of qualitatively examining a state's renewable portfolio standard. Some states, Murphey said, will consider electricity generated by old dams, old solar... more [truncated due to possible copyright]  
The ACC, a state government agency responsible for regulating utilities and businesses, developed Arizona's original, and the nation's first, renewable portfolio standard in 1999, Heather Murphey, a spokeswoman for body, told United Press International.

A renewable portfolio standard ensures that a minimum percentage of a state's electricity production come from renewable sources such as wind power, solar power, hydropower, or biomass. Normally a state's energy portfolio is dominated by electricity produced from fossil fuels.

"After reviewing the original portfolio in 2004, the commissioners saw a need to make the standard more aggressive and more forward thinking," Murphey said.

The commissioners suspected in 1999 that new technologies might emerge in five years and that the portfolio would need revision in 2004, she added.

"For example, in 1999, generating wind power was not a possibility for Arizona, whereas studies done in 2004 and 2005 show that it's not only a possibility but a likelihood," Murphey said.

She also stressed the importance of qualitatively examining a state's renewable portfolio standard. Some states, Murphey said, will consider electricity generated by old dams, old solar projects, reusable nuclear fuel, and even coal as part of their renewable portfolios.

"A meaningful comparison between different states' renewable portfolios is necessary, and Arizona is definitely one of the trendsetters" she said.

Arizona Attorney General Terry Goddard and Secretary of State Jan Brewer must approve the commission's restructured renewable portfolio proposal, but a green light is expected by the third quarter of this year.

The most detrimental consequence of requiring utilities to meet an aggressive renewable portfolio standard is the significantly increased costs that Arizona utilities and their customers will soon be forced to pay.

The commission expects a residential utility customer's surcharge cap to increase from 35 cents to as high as $1.05, Murphey said. She added that two commissioners even voted against this portfolio based on concerns it lacked sufficient data about costs for utilities and rate payers five to 10 years from now.

"A lot of good things can come from using renewables, but cost is an overriding concern," Stephen Ahearn, director of Arizona's Residential Utility Consumer Office, told UPI. RUCO is an organization that advocates for consumer concerns before the commission.

Ahearn added that he expects costs to decrease with time and as more renewable energy technology is developed.

However, he said data show a vast number of Arizona utility customers want the state to produce more electricity from wind and solar power and are willing to pay for it.

A survey of 705 adults living across Arizona conducted between July 9 and July 16, 2005, showed that 61 percent of consumers across the state favored requiring utilities to increase the proportion of electricity generated from renewable sources despite inevitably increased costs. The study was conducted by the Behavior Research Center of Arizona as part of the its independent and nonpartisan Rocky Mountain poll series.

"People are generally concerned that Arizona is not harnessing more solar power," Ahearn said.

He added that though Arizona has some of the best solar resources in the world, solar is the most expensive type of energy to produce.

"In general we support the commission's enthusiasm for expanding Arizona's use of renewable power, but we must look carefully at costs and be sure we have the resources to meet these ambitious goals," Joe Salkowski, a spokesman for Tucson Electric and Power Co., told UPI.

He said TEP is conducting research on the effects of increased costs for utility customers, and said in addition to cost, another hurdle associated with the new portfolio standard is figuring out where the renewable energy will come from.

"Arizona doesn't have access to many of the renewable resources that other states have, like hydropower or geothermal energy for example" Salkowski said.

This means that Arizona utilities will need to acquire renewable resources from other states where they are more abundant. Salkowski said Arizona's ability to access New Mexico's extensive wind power will be an important resource in meeting the new portfolio standard.

However, not all the burden is on the utilities to meet the new requirements. The commission also plans to require 30 percent of the state's renewable generation to come from distributed sources.

"Central generation occurs when where a power plant delivers electricity to homes, whereas distributed generation takes place when power is generated at the location where it is used," Salkowski said.

For Arizona utility customers, distributed generation mainly means installing rooftop solar systems on their homes, investment for which TEP offers subsidies to its customers, Salkowski added.

"The new portfolio standard calls on us to motivate customers to install solar who tell us they're already interested anyway," Salkowski said.


Source: http://www.upi.com/Energy/v...

MAR 28 2006
http://www.windaction.org/posts/1931-arizona-focuses-on-renewable-energy
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