ORIGINAL REPORTING: Trying To Make Arizona’s Just Energy Transition More Just
Stakeholders, Utility Unite in Face-Off with Regulators Over Arizona Just Energy Transition
Herman K. Trabish, April 28, 2022 (California Current)
Editor’s note: While calls for energy justice and equity rise across the U.S. and around the world, Arizona’s regulators continue to avoid a decision.
Arizona Public Service (APS) raised the national standard for a Just Energy Transition with its $144.45 million settlement with affected communities and tribal peoples in late 2020. The money was for assistance to communities impacted by the already-closed coal fueled 2,409 MW Navajo Generating Station and planned 2031 closures of the 2,270 MW Four Corners Generating Station, and the 1,129 MW Cholla Generating Station. Navajo supplied and the Four Corners’ supplies power to California.
The urgent need for the proposed APS investment to rectify the coal plants’ decades-long destructive impacts was emphasized April 27 in the first of several April-May town hall meetings on the ACC ruling. Chaired by Commissioner Anna Tovar, the citizens of Joseph City, Arizona, testified to coal generation’s pollution of local air, water, health, and economics.
Endorsed by environmental groups and tribal peoples, the coal plant settlement included $128.75 million for the Navajo Nation, $12 million to Cholla communities, and $3.7 million to the Hopi Tribe. But the plan required Arizona Corporation Commission (ACC) approval. The commission objected to APS’s proposal to recover almost $120 million from ratepayers and sharply cut the amount to be recovered through rates.
That investment would support “a solid economic transition,” Navajo Nation President Jonathan Nez told this reporter at the time of the agreement. It would “electrify homes, increase renewable energy projects, and promote economic development” and could make Navajo Nation lands “a renewable energy epicenter,” Nez said.
As Western utilities close uneconomic coal facilities, affected communities and advocacy groups are pushing for economic justice in the transition to clean energy. Landmark efforts include Washington state’s $55 million in 2011, New Mexico’s $40 million in 2019, and the April 26, 2022, agreement for closure of Xcel Colorado’s Comanche facility, which could approach APS’s proposed expenditure.
The APS plan would likely be the biggest just transition utility expenditure in the U.S. to date, according to APS and Arizona State University Just Energy Transition Center Co-Director Amanda Ormond. The ACC disrupted that ambition. In its final decision late last year, concerned about costs to APS’s 1.2 million Phoenix and central Arizona customers, the commission reduced the proposed $119.25 million ratepayer share of the Just Energy Transition payment to $10 million… click here for more
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