The Goldwater Institute is asking the state Supreme Court to strike down rules that require Arizona Public Service Co. to get a certain percent of electricity from renewable sources such as solar.
The organization filed a petition late Thursday, arguing that the Arizona Corporation Commission overstepped its authority by requiring APS to charge customers a monthly tariff to support renewable energy.
The ACC passed a requirement in 2006 requiring public utilities to get 15 percent of their electricity from renewables by 2025, and earlier this year approved an increased tariff on APS customers to help the utility provide incentives for that power.
Household APS customers can be charged a maximum $1.32 a month with the tariff. Small businesses have a tariff capped at $48.84, and industrial customers pay no more than $146.53 a month.
APS will collect $34 million from the tariffs this year, and $95.7 million in 2012, utility officials said. APS uses the money for power purchases, like buying electricity from wind farms, and also for rebates the utility gives homeowners for installing solar panels.
"The market certainly is dictating a shift to alternative technologies, but we would expect that in the normal course of events, APS and other utilities would pursue the most efficient blend of technology," said Clint Bolick, director of the Goldwater Institute's litigation arm. "That is not what the commission did. The commission took a one-size-fits-all approach, and all of us are going to be paying a tax for this unconstitutional government activity."
The organization actually filed the petition on behalf of two men and a company that donate to Goldwater Institute, and a woman who works for the organization. The petitioners are Roy Miller, Thomas Husband, Corpus Communications Inc. and Jennifer Bryson.
All five commissioners are named in the suit, including one who voted against the renewable-energy rules, and Attorney General Terry Goddard, whose office confirmed the ACC rules last year.
The petition questions the use of renewable electricity sources.
"To comply with the . . . rules, utilities are forced to create and install new, electrically inefficient structures, implement different technologies than those currently used, and change their relationships with their customers," it said. "This not only interferes with the business management of utilities, but it also increases rates and reduces the adequacy of services to customers."
Commissioner Kris Mayes said she is surprised by the action, but confident that the ACC was within its authority to enact the rules.
She said the institute's namesake, Sen. Barry Goldwater, would be "appalled" by the petition. "He was a fiscal conservative who would have, I think, been concerned about the fact that fossil-fuel electricity is escalating out of control, the cost of it, and would have seen a need to go in a different direction," Mayes said.
"He cared about the future of