Miller v. Arizona Corporation Commission
We need more, not less, renewable energy and in a sunny state like Arizona, it only makes sense to encourage utility companies to secure power from renewable energy sources such as solar. This seems like a no-brainer and yet, the Goldwater Institute, a group that supports entrenched corporate interests over the public interest, filed a lawsuit against exactly this.
The Center stepped in and filed an amicus brief in support of Arizona's renewable energy standards to make sure that our energy needs will be adequately provided for in a world where traditional (non-renewable) energy sources are quickly disappearing. On April 7, the Arizona Court of Appeals agreed with the Center (and the Arizona Corporation Commission) by rejecting the Goldwater Institute's challenge.
In June of 2008, the Goldwater Institute filed a lawsuit challenging the Arizona Corporation Commission's adoption of renewable energy standards for Arizona's electric utilities. The rules adopted by the Commission require Arizona utility companies to secure an increasing percentage of their power supply from renewable resources.
By 2025, the rules require that Arizona's electric utilities obtain at least 15% of their total kilowatt hour sales from renewable resources such as wind, geothermal and solar.
The really innovative part of the Commission's rules is that of this 15%, up to 30% must come from renewable energy sources located on private customers' premises. In other words, these rules make it possible for private individuals to have, say, solar panels installed on their property at a reduced cost because the utility company picks up a portion of the cost. The power generated by the solar panels first gets applied to the individual's energy bill and any extra goes to the utility company, which then sells it to its other customers.
It's a win-win situation for everyone. The utility company gets to generate and sell renewable energy without having to purchase its own property to house the renewable energy source, the private customer gets renewable energy technology at a significant discount and as a result has reduced (or eliminated) energy bills, and the need for renewable technology creates jobs in our communities. So why would anyone fight against this?
The Goldwater Institute has long been known for its distaste of anything that threatens entrenched corporate interests. This time, however, it is fighting against common sense and what's in the best interest of Arizonans.
The Center filed an amicus brief in this case representing a broad group of organizations and companies concerned about ever escalating utility rates and the environmental impact of conventional energy resources like natural gas and coal. With utility rates for Arizona Public Service (APS), Tucson Electric Power (TEP), and Salt River Project (SRP) increasing all the time, it only makes sense that the Arizona Corporation Commission step in to require that utilities take steps now that may be more expensive in the short term in order to lower long-term costs for utility rate payers.
At the same time, increasing the amount of renewable resources used by utility companies will only help avoid costs that are sure to be imposed by greenhouse gas regulations at the federal level.
The Goldwater Institute lost this case at the Superior Court. On April 7, the Arizona Court of Appeals agreed with the Superior Court by ruling that the Arizona Corporation Commission has the authority to adopt renewable energy standards for Arizona. The Goldwater Institute filed a Petition for Review with the Arizona Supreme Court, however, on September 20, 2011, the Court declined review, so the Court of Appeals decision stands.