ScrambleWatch Q&A: Republican Barry Wong on Renewable Energy Standards

As a part of our coverage for the Arizona Corporation Commission race, ScrambleWatch asked Republican Barry Wong about the role of the agency in setting policy about clean energy.

Is the free market the proper mechanism to promote cleaner energy or should government be involved?

I think there’s a limited role for the government regarding renewable energy. More specifically, in 2006 when I served on the Corporation Commission I was one of the key votes that brought in the 15 percent requirement for electric companies to produce renewable energy by 2025. When I served in the legislature, I was instrumental in advancing a number of tax incentives and tax credit legislation which passed, and that was the market-based approach to incentivize utility companies to do that with renewables. Some of them did, but it didn’t move up fast enough in terms of the adoption of the clean energy. I think that’s where government has a role, though limited, to act as a catalyst to push this renewable clean energy. I think for the Corporation Commission, this fits within their jurisdiction because, in the long run, it has an impact on overall utility rates. The interest rates, for example. I think that would clearly fall within the jurisdiction of the Corporation Commission. I think the commissioners, including myself at that time in 2006, I think we had a responsibility as leaders to plan ahead, to foresee the direction of energy markets. The growth of the state means we have a great demand for energy currently, as well as in the long term. There is a role of government in pursuing and encouraging and requiring the electric companies to produce renewable energy.

What do you think of the current Renewable Energy Standard?

I think it’s important to keep the Renewable Energy Standard intact. Some of my competitors are interested in reversing it all together if they got on the commission, I think that would be a grave mistake. If I’m returned to the Corporation Commission I will maintain and protect that standard as it was passed. We have to let it work out at 15 percent. It’s still early. It was passed in 2006, and the attorney general’s office didn’t sign off on it until 2007, so you really have just over a year that the rules have been in existence. I think it’s too soon to say that it should be adjusted. I would not adjust it down, I would maintain the status, and review it every year as the rules require.

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