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Arizona’s utility regulators have bounced the ball around on mandated carbon-free electricity over a period of years. Last week they reached a compromise to put rules back in place. The final deadline for no emissions would be nearly 50 years from now, an eternity in politics. Nevertheless, the mandate is to be phased in, and that is a good thing.

The commission has some new members and now is more balanced between Republicans and Democrats. A previous deadline of 2050 was scrapped amid a desire by some commissioners in favor of mere guidelines. Then last week a compromise for the mandate was reached, but making it later.

Utilities have been working toward the mandate anyway. And that is the way it should go, with market forces involved. However, public opinion and the mandate obviously are crucial. What would be detrimental to average ratepayers would be a mandate like the one put on the ballot — and rejected — a few years ago that did not take nuclear power into consideration.

Republican Commissioner Jim O’Connor, elected last year and the one to break a tie, summed up the situation by saying that the utility companies are working toward more clean energy in the short term, but getting to 100% will be left to future generations. That is where the 2070 deadline for no carbon comes in.

Meanwhile, the new rules, which will be up for final approval later this year after public hearings, require a 50% cut in carbon emissions by 2032, 65% in 2040, 80% in 2050, 95% in 2060 and 100% by the end of 2070.

The commission has had some swings politically over the years, but it has done a pretty good job of representing the needs of Arizonans. The new rules are in keeping with that, and they mean avoiding sudden mandates that would take too much money out of the pockets of hardworking Arizonans.

— Donovan Kramer Jr.

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