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Arizona rejects renewable initiative that spurred nuclear retirement fears

Washington — Arizona voters on Tuesday rejected a ballot initiative to require electric utilities to get 50% of their electricity from renewables by 2030, up from the current mandate for 15% renewables by 2025.

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The decision could mean a new lease of life for the 3.9 GW Palo Verde nuclear plant, which the Arizona Public Service had said could retire early.

"As the nation's largest producer of reliable emission-free energy, Palo Verde is the anchor of Arizona's clean-energy future," APS President Don Brandt said in a statement Tuesday. "Any serious plan to reduce carbon emissions has to include nuclear energy and Palo Verde."

But the outcome could be a missed opportunity for solar developers in the state. According to the Energy Information Administration, solar energy accounted for about 5% of Arizona's net electricity generation in 2016. But Arizona has one of the largest solar energy potentials of any state, second only to Nevada, EIA said.

"Arizonans want more renewable energy -- even APS, the utility monopoly that spent millions of dollars opposing Prop 127, acknowledges that in its statement about the results," Jamison Foser, a senior advisor for NextGen America, said in an email Tuesday. Among other issues, Foser raised concerns over the ballot language being written in a way that favored APS. -- Kate Winston, kate.winston@spglobal.com

-- Edited by E Shailaja Nair, newsdesk@spglobal.com