On January 25, 2018, the Arizona Court of Appeals affirmed the Superior Court’s decision, which upheld the Certificate of Environmental Compatibility (“CEC”) granted by the Arizona Corporation Commission (the “Commission”) to SunZia Transmission LLC (“SunZia”) for the Arizona portion of the SunZia Project. The SunZia Project is a 500+ mile merchant transmission line that will bring up to 4500 MW of renewable wind resources from New Mexico to the Pinal Central substation in central Arizona and improve the reliability of the Arizona electric transmission system. From the line’s terminus in Arizona, the renewable energy the SunZia Project transmits will be used to serve customers throughout Arizona, California, and the Southwest. SunZia was the first independent transmission line developer to obtain a CEC from the Commission.
Court Concludes There is Substantial Evidence to Support SunZia Project
Project opponents questioned whether the Project will bring renewable energy from New Mexico, but the Court of Appeals concluded there was substantial evidence to support the Commission’s decision. The Court noted “the record here indicates that the Commission considered and debated all relevant factors before granting the CEC. The Committee conducted a [thirteen-day] hearing in which it heard from proponents and opponents of the Project. That hearing generated multiple exhibits totaling over 3,000 pages, and a transcript of over 2,500 pages….SunZia presented numerous environmental studies and statements regarding the Project’s anticipated energy sources and how the Project would impact the surrounding area.”
SunZia’s Victory is a Win for Renewable Energy Developers and Energy Consumers
The fact that administrative and judicial challenges were brought against the Project highlights some of the challenges facing independent developers when siting large scale electric infrastructure. Until now, long-distance transmission lines have been the exclusive domain of load serving utilities. New ideas that upset traditional models often face skepticism and doubts. SunZia addressed these concerns by presenting a comprehensive case that demonstrated the need for large-scale delivery of renewable wind power and the economic means to do so, while adopting extraordinary environmental protection and mitigation measures that have no precedent. The Court’s decision is a victory for renewable energy proponents, independent power and transmission developers, and electric consumers throughout the Southwest.