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.

PreviewLegal DocumentsSize
Brief of Amici Curiae417.41 KB
Arizona Court of Appeals Opinion101.2 KB

Case Updates

Arizona Supreme Court Lets Court of Appeals Decision Upholding Renewable Energy Rules Stand

September 20, 2011:  The Arizona Supreme Court declined to accept the Petition for Review filed by the Goldwater Institute, letting stand the recent decision by the Court of Appeals that upheld Arizona's renewable energy rules. 

Center Involved in Major Victory for Renewable Energy

April 7: In a major victory for renewable energy, the Arizona Court of Appeals ruled today that the Arizona Corporation Commission ("ACC") acted well within its authority when it created a renewable energy standard for the state and permitted utility companies to set tariffs to fund solar energy systems. The Center, a long-time champion of renewable energy standards, helped usher in the ACC's standard and defended it in court through an amicus brief. 

Center's Work Supports Opening of World's Largest Solar Power Plant in AZ

12/22: Thanks, in part, to the Center's untiring defense and pursuit of renewable energy in our state, construction to build the world's largest concentrating solar power plant in Gila Bend, Arizona, will begin in 2011. The company building the plant, Abengoa Solar, has a 30-year agreement to sell solar power to APS beginning in 2013. The project will create 1,700 construction jobs and over 250 permanent ones, something Arizona badly needs. The Center represented the Sierra Club's Grand Canyon Chapter in supporting Abengoa Solar's application before the Arizona Corporation Commission. The Center is also fighting a heated legal battle to allow Arizona to continue requiring energy companies like APS to obtain 15% of their power from renewable sources. Plants like this wouldn't exist without the requirement.     

Renewable Energy Threatened

11/16: Center in court to retain Arizona's innovative and economical rule requiring utility companies to obtain 15% of their energy from renewable resources. While this seems like a no-brainer in sun-soaked Arizona, the Goldwater Institute is fighting against this rule.