Arizona New-Build Gas Moratorium to Continue

Last week Arizona regulators voted to lengthen a ban on
new-build gas plants in the state through August 1 of this year.
The ban applies to all new gas capacity of 150 megawatts or
more.

The state’s corporation commission
voted
in March of last year to put a stop on any new gas plant
approvals, while it considered a plan
from Commissioner Andy Tobin that calls for 80 percent clean energy
by mid-century. Though the original gas moratorium expired January
1, Tobin argued in a November letter
to the commission chair that the moratorium should be extended
because regulators had not made significant progress on considering
the plan.

“While there has been some progress to-date such as opening a
new docket, such a formal rulemaking has still not occurred,” he
wrote to commissioners. “My concern is that, if the moratorium
expires as planned, utilities may once again consider large capital
investments in generating facilities and undermine the
effectiveness of any energy plan we adopt in the future.”

“I believe it is in the best interest of ratepayers that we
continue to slow the immediate buildout of this infrastructure
until we have a clearer picture of where this Commission would like
regulated utilities to head in the future,” he added.   

Now, commissioners will continue withholding approval of gas
plants while they work through a series of workshops on new energy
policies. The last workshop is scheduled for July. 

Consumer advocate group Arizona PIRG Education Fund praised the
move as “an opportunity for a fair, independent evaluation of all
resource options,” that can avoid higher rates and future
stranded assets. This month the organization, along with clean
energy and environmental advocates, urged the commission to extend
the moratorium.

In addition to the 80 percent clean energy mandate set out in
Tobin’s proposal, his “grid modernization plan” calls for
3,000 megawatts of energy storage by 2030, the drafting of utility
charging infrastructure plans and buildout of energy efficiency
programs.

The debate surrounding Arizona’s future energy mix grew

contentious
leading up to the 2018 election, with a 50 percent
renewables ballot initiative joining Tobin’s plan as possible
replacements to Arizona’s current 15 percent by 2025 renewable
portfolio standard. While voters struck down the 50 percent option,
Tobin’s plan — which, unlike the 50 percent proposal, leaves
room for nuclear — remains under consideration. 

Though Tobin’s colleagues agreed to extend the ban, Utility
Dive
reported
that at least one signaled he may not in the
future. 

“I only take this vote on the basis the utilities involved
will be allowed to continue to enter into any power purchase
agreements they feel are necessary during the period of the
moratorium without restriction,” said Commissioner Boyd Dunn,
who, like Tobin, is a Republican. “I hope that will be the last
time we will deal with a moratorium.”

 

 

Source: FS – GreenTech Media
Arizona New-Build Gas Moratorium to Continue