Monday, April 15, 2013

Will Solar Get A Chance in Sunny Arizona?

In statements made today, October 12, 2012, Arizona Corporations Commissioner Paul Newman reiterated his support for the solar industry in Arizona. Newman is one of five Commissioners, and one of two Democrats on the Commission.

Solar is big all over the world, and according to the European photovoltaic industry association (EPIA) solar has become the world’s third most important renewable energy source after hydropower and wind. Germany has half of the world’s installed solar photovoltaic capacity. The United States and China follow Germany and are growing fast. On October 10, 2012, the largest solar power project in Australia, the 10-megawatt Greenough River Solar Farm, was switched on near the small town of Geraldton in Western Australia.

So what’s happening in Arizona, a state with the potential to lead solar energy production in the United States?

As of June, 2012, total in-state solar production in Arizona was 450 megawatts. Sounds great, but this is less than 2% of Arizona’s total energy generation of 27,000 megawatts. Arizona’s total clean energy generation makes up 3.5% of the total. Fully 24 states generate more clean electricity than Arizona. California, Iowa and Minnesota are generating 18 to 20 percent of their total energy from clean sources.

And the potential to improve on this in Arizona may not be high. Electric power production is regulated in Arizona by the Arizona Corporation Commission. Arizona pioneered the establishment of a Renewable Energy Standard (RES) in 2007, requiring that by 2025, 15% of kilowatt-hours generated by regulated utilities come from clean energy (defined as solar, wind, biomass and other similar technologies). But this year the Arizona legislature has attempted, so far unsuccessfully, first to remove the RES and then to cap it at 15%.

And several other states have since pushed the renewable energy standards bar further:

  • New Mexico: 20% by 2020,
  • Nevada: 25% by 2025
  • Colorado 30% by 2020
  • California: 33% by 2020.

Newman’s office stated that he “wants to increase the RES, and has suggested 25% by 2025. It should be decided in an open manner with public and stakeholder input. We need to increase participation and transparency.”

Newman also supports Virtual Net Metering (VNM), a policy that is critical for the expansion of solar energy distributed in the community. VNM, or aggregated net metering, allows the net-metering credits from a single solar generating system to be distributed among multiple electric service accounts.


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