Interstate Commerce in Electric Power – Arizona Policymaker’s Two-faced View

Michael Giberson

Yesterday the staff of Rep. Gabrielle Giffords (D-Az) conducted a “Solar Summit” in Washington, D.C. You can watch all three hours of the program here, or maybe you’d rather read the overview provided by Phil Riske at the Rose Law Group Blog, “Mayes, Spitzer bemoan congressional Republicans ‘retrenching’ against renewable energy funding and transmission.” (I took the latter option.)

The headline’s “Mayes” is the Republican former Arizona Corporation Commission chair Kris Mayes. At the summit:

On transmission, Mayes said it’s essential there be a build-out of transmission lines, notably connecting Phoenix, San Diego and Los Angeles, but Congress is “retrenching” against financing transmission projects. She added she is concerned about a possible stumbling block that California will hurt progress by maintaining a “protectionist” posture.

What? Transmission lines connecting Phoenix, San Diego and Los Angeles are essential according to Mayes? Well then, we must overcome that protectionist posturing that is frustrating interstate commerce in electric power!

So presumably when Mayes had a vote on the Arizona utility commission, she voted in favor of building transmission lines between the state and California, right?

Uh, no.

Flashback to 2007, when Mayes vote against a proposal to build a power line from near Phoenix to a point just east of Los Angeles. What was the objection?

“California wants to drop a giant extension cord in Arizona and draw out our power,” Commissioner Kris Mayes said. “Arizona’s energy future is at issue in this case.”

(Link here.) Other commissioners were similarly dramatic in their stated opposition: Commissioner Bill Mundell said, “I don’t want to be an energy farm for California”; Commissioner Jeff Hatch-Miller said, “California needs to step up to the plate and begin building its own generation.”

The transmission line’s California-based sponsor has begun construction on the California part of the line, but gave up on trying to persuade the Arizona commission to let it build the rest.

Arizona policymakers are changing their tune – now they want to build power generation for Californians and become an energy farm for the neighboring state. Apparently Arizona’s energy future once required a “protectionist” blocking of added transmission lines to California, but those lines are now essential to the state’s energy future.

With leaders like this, who needs enemies?

2 thoughts on “Interstate Commerce in Electric Power – Arizona Policymaker’s Two-faced View

  1. Since when does the US Congress (especially those “wascally wepublicans) need to become involved in funding the transmission of electric power between suppliers and customers?

    I understand that some federal and or state incentives, perhaps including RPSf, are “necessary” to facilitate installation of expensive, remote, diffuse, intermittent generation sources such as solar and wind.

    Have the solar and wind developers now concluded that federal and state incentives are “necessary” to facilitate the construction of the transmission infrastructure required to collect and transport their output to market?

    What will they think of next, mandatory “take” requirements? “Enquiring minds want to know.” 🙂

  2. Thank you for pointing out the contradictory positions of Kris Mayes in AZ. She did a lot of damage to regulated utilities in AZ when she was Chair of the ACC, and when able to, spread that damage to other states. The fact that she has now so dramatically changed her tune can only mean that she has further political ambitions.

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