The Energy 202: Arizona’s biggest utility, which fought renewables in 2018, now wants to go carbon-free

By Dino Grandoni | The Washington Post

Arizona’s biggest electric utility spent millions of dollars in 2018 to defeat a renewable energy ballot initiative. Just two years later, it now says it wants to get all of its power from carbon-free sources.

As Steven Mufson and I report this morning, Arizona Public Service announced an ambitious plan to wean itself entirely off fossil fuels by 2050, with the intermediate goal of getting nearly two-thirds of its electricity from nuclear and renewable sources by 2030.

The drastic about-face for the electric utility is a sign of how the political climate has changed. 

Voters rejected the measure shifting the state to renewables in the 2018 election, even after billionaire environmentalist Tom Steyer’s campaign in support of the ballot measure known as Proposition 127 brought the total amount spent on both sides to at least $62.8 million. APS’s announcement makes it less likely there will another big ballot initiative fight in future elections.

“I am very encouraged by the news from Arizona Public Service this morning and I am also happy that our efforts behind Proposition 127 in 2018 are finally moving Arizona to a more clean energy future,” Steyer, who is now a Democratic candidate for president, said in a statement Wednesday morning.

“The plan put forth by APS shows that when public interest advocates keep pushing energy companies, they can get real results.”

In its own news release, APS said that after the ballot initiative fight the utility “took a hard look at our generation mix and future plans” when setting its carbon-free energy goals.

APS’s plan, which is not legally binding, outstrips the modest renewable requirements already on the books in Arizona that mandate that it rely on renewable energy for 15 percent of supplies by 2025. Yet it’s especially striking since the electric utility poured $37.9 million into a campaign to defeat the ballot initiative, which would have required APS to meet a similar goal — generating 50 percent of its power from renewable sources by 2030.


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