A new law quickly pushed through the Arizona Legislature and backed by Arizona Public Service Co. and other business interests is aiming to gut an initiative drive on renewable energy production before it makes it onto the ballot.
Arizona Gov. Doug Ducey signed a bill Friday that would seek to penalize companies that don’t meet the state’s renewable energy standards between $100 and $5,000, according to the Arizona Republic.
The new law was in response to an initiative in the state that seeks to require Arizona utilities get 50 percent of their power from renewable sources such as wind and solar by 2030. Currently, Arizona requires utilities to get 15 percent of their power from renewable sources by 2025.
APS and business groups have decried the initiative effort, which seeks to amend the state’s constitution for the requirement, as an effort by California billionaire Tom Steyer, who has sought to back environmental causes first in his home state and then across the U.S.
“This measure, funded by an out-of-state billionaire, has the very real possibility of having a negative impact on Arizona’s businesses and hardworking citizens by dramatically increasing the cost of energy,” said Todd Sanders, president and CEO of the Greater Phoenix Chamber of Commerce. “Arizona’s utility providers have provided residents and businesses with reliable and affordable energy for more than 100 years. This initiative would substantially weaken our economy and we stand firmly against it.”
APS has been aggressive in trying to block the initiative, including helping to draft the bill Ducey eventually signed, according to the Republic.
Clean Energy for a Healthy Arizona, the group seeking to put the initiative on the ballot in November, opposed the move.
“Ducey’s signature on APS’ dirty bill sends a loud and clear message that donors and corporations get special treatment over Arizona families,” the group said in a statement. “It’s astonishing just how much more power APS and their profits hold over Arizona’s elected leaders than do the people of the state. APS was able to take a bill that was declared unconstitutional by Senate lawyers on Monday and ram it all the way through the governor’s desk in less than a week with almost no public comment.”
The new law may lead to a legal fight as to its constitutionality, according to the Republic.
APS is the state’s largest utility and has increasingly gotten involved in state politics, including providing funding to back candidates on the Arizona Corporation Commission, which regulates utilities.
Arizona’s solar industry is one of the larger ones in the U.S., employing more than 8,000 people, according to data from the Solar Energy Industries Association, a national trade group representing the industry.
Earlier this month, a SEIA report named Arizona as one of the top installations states in the U.S.