By Dillon Rosenblatt | Arizona Capitol Times
Utilities are now required to enter into long-term contracts to buy power from solar and renewable energy generating stations under new policy established by the Arizona Corporation Commission.
Solar advocates and environmental groups hailed the commission’s unanimous vote December 11 as a new day that will bring jobs and cleaner energy to the state, while utilities said the new rule will cost customers more over the long haul.
The commission’s decision extended the contracts between the utilities and the generating stations, known as qualifying facilities, to 18 years from two.
Under the federally mandated Public Utility Regulatory Policy Act, monopoly utilities – the companies the commission regulates – are required to purchase power from qualified facilities at a rate fixed by regulators.
Arizona Public Service Co., the state’s largest utility, wanted these contracts to remain only in two-year durations, despite its own solar contracts lasting on average 28 to 30 years. APS was not alone in wanting the two-year deal to remain. Tucson Electric Power and UniSource Energy Services, the two other largest monopolies regulated by the commission, also did not want to extend the contracts longer. The unanimous vote gave them no choice.