Arizona’s Largest Utility Commits To Be Carbon-Free By 2050

Sunny Phoenix          Photo: Greentech Media

In a surprising turn around, Arizona Public Service (APS) pledged on Wednesday to achieve carbon-free (not just neutral) power by 2050, with an interim target of 65 percent clean electricity by 2030, and by 2031 APS will achieve 45 percent renewable energy as well as close its coal power plants.  Ironically, in 2018, APS spent nearly $40 million dollars to defeat a ballot initiative to switch to renewables in the same time frame that Democratic Presidential candidate Tom Steyer’s organization NextGen America was working to get passed, according to The Washington Post.

Why This Matters:  This ambitious 2050 goal is going to take a concerted effort — APS currently gets 22 percent of its power from coal and 26 percent from gas and oil, according to the company, and the massive Palo Verde nuclear plant accounts for 25 percent of the mix, while renewables deliver only 12 % right now.  What changed since 2018?  The company’s CEO, investor interests, and ultimately Arizona public opinion.  Isn’t it ironic?  It is only a shame that they spent so much money to defeat the ballot initiative — money that could have been dedicated to developing more renewable energy sources.  Better late than never.  As we have written, APS joins a growing list of utilities making similar carbon commitments. 

Steyer Is Gracious In Victory

The Post reported that Steyer said in a statement, “I am very encouraged by the news from Arizona Public Service this morning and I am also happy that our efforts behind Proposition 127 in 2018 are finally moving Arizona to a more clean energy future….The plan put forth by APS shows that when public interest advocates keep pushing energy companies, they can get real results.”  Interestingly, the company’s chief said they will no longer spend money funding the campaigns of candidates for the public utility commission that regulates APS, thereby taking politics out of the decision in the future.

How Will They Get There?

Actually they don’t know the full answer yet — APS’ CEO Jeff Gulder said, “We know that there’s almost certainly going to be a need for some dispatchable resources to maintain reliability,” and continued, “[l]et’s get those signals moving so that we can use market-driven methods to drive some of the technology advances.”  APS plans to rely on existing gas-fired power in the “near term” to make “a sensible transition to clean generating sources,” and eventually will build large storage facilities to make an all renewables portfolio viable.  It is clear that it would be uneconomic to keep open the company’s two aging coal plants, which are 50 years old.

 

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