Arizona PIRG Education Fund Calls on Commission to Look at Overwhelming Evidence; Not Take Unvetted Report at Face Value

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Arizona PIRG Education Fund

With the official public comment period now closed, the Arizona PIRG Education Fund urged the Arizona Corporation Commission to review the substantial number of independent reports and ratepayer comments that have been provided as part of the Energy Rules, and to schedule a long overdue final vote within the next two months.

The organization pointed to Friday’s letter to the Commission in which over 30 major businesses, trade associations, employers, and large energy consumers in Arizona – including Apple, Arizona Technology Council, Google, Ikea and Microsoft – stated that energy efficiency and renewable energy policies in our state have already created billions of dollars in net economic benefits and urged the Commission to strengthen Arizona’s clean energy standards.

An independent report, released earlier this year, found that greater investment in clean energy could create a net economic windfall of $2 billion for Arizona. Although that report looked at both costs and benefits, Chairwoman Lea Marquez Peterson is instead touting a recent study by Ascend Analytics that focuses on costs not benefits and is based on a heavily redacted and incomplete analysis, which relied on modeling by utility companies and highly speculative long-term projections, as cited in the report on multiple occasions.

In its filing in the Energy Rules docket, the Arizona PIRG Education Fund said the Ascend study was not “independent”, raised more questions than answers, and Commissioner and Commission Staff time and money are being wasted.

According to Diane E. Brown, Executive Director of the Arizona PIRG Education Fund, “Without input from fellow Commissioners, Commission staff, or the dozens of expert stakeholders who have been involved in the energy rules proceedings for the past three years, the Chairwoman’s premature media blitz on a single unvetted report casts an unnecessary cloud of uncertainty on an issue that should be discussed with integrity and facts.” Brown noted that even Ascend recommended the Commission hire “an independent analytical firm” for additional research into future rate impacts.

Brown stated, “The Energy Rules are a compromise among Commissioners and stakeholders including leaders of business, consumer, environmental, faith-based, and public health entities. The Energy Rules contain significant financial benefits for consumers and have received historic input from ratepayers. The data and the public support before the Commission make an extremely strong case for the passage of the Energy Rules.”

Prior to the close of the official record, approximately 12,000 comments – overwhelmingly favorable – from across the state were entered into the Commission’s docket on the Energy Rules. Brown said if the Commission wanted specific input from ratepayers on the Energy Rules, they should have asked the approximately 60 individuals that spoke during last week’s public comment sessions.

Among other provisions, the Energy Rules would expand Arizona’s Energy Efficiency Standard by an average of 1.3% energy savings annually through 2030, create a 5% energy storage standard by 2035 and a 50% clean energy standard by 2032, and improve the utility’s resource planning processes to include diverse stakeholders, offering varied perspectives.