The APS Red Rock Solar Facility.

January 22, 2020

AZ Business Magazine

APS commits to 45% renewables by 2030

Conservation and consumer groups today welcomed Arizona Public Service’s (APS) announcement that will set the utility on a path toward 45 percent renewable energy by 2030 and 100 percent carbon-free electricity by midcentury. Currently, 13 percent of the utility’s electricity is generated from renewable sources. 

Specifically, the utility is committing to provide 65 percent carbon-free electricity generation by 2030, with 45 percent coming from renewable resources, and to achieve 100 percent carbon-free electricity generation by 2050. APS will close all of its coal-fired power plants by 2031. APS joins six other major electric utilities throughout the United States that have voluntarily committed to 100 percent clean energy: Avista (2045), Duke Energy (2050), Green Mountain Power (2025), Idaho Power (2045), Public Service Company of New Mexico (2040), and Xcel Energy (2050). 

The 65 percent carbon-free electricity by 2030 will put the utility on a path toward limiting global warming to the level that scientists say is needed to avoid the worst effects of climate change. APS plans to shutter almost 1,500 megawatts of its coal capacity, or four units at two plants, which will remove more than 2,000 megawatts of total coal-fired generation from operations when the shares of other plant owners are included.

In 2019, as part of the commission’s clean energy rule-making process, 25 stakeholders filed a Joint Proposal calling for 100 percent clean energy by 2045. The proposal includes interim targets of 50 percent renewable energy by 2030, with 10 percent from distributed generation including rooftop solar, and a separate requirement for 35 percent cumulative energy efficiency savings by 2030. Additionally, the proposal includes considerations to develop renewable energy projects in communities impacted by the shift away from fossil fuels. Stakeholders would like to see the Commission adopt their proposal to both require similar commitments from other utilities and to ensure APS delivers on its promise. Stakeholders view a requirement from the Commission as still relevant, as aspects that are not covered in the APS announcement, including a just transition for coal-impacted communities, energy efficiency, and distributed energy generation, are essential for a vibrant, clean energy future in the state.

“APS’ commitment to 100 percent carbon-free electricity is great news for Arizonans, who overwhelmingly support clean energy,” said Art Terrazas, Interior West Director for Vote Solar. “But corporate commitments must also be enforced, and may not benefit everyone equitably. Now, the Arizona Corporation Commission must adopt a statewide, 100 percent carbon-free standard that ensures all Arizonans can benefit from clean energy.”

In just 2018, APS opposed and spent millions of dollars to defeat a ballot measure to increase the Renewable Energy Standard from its current level of 15% by 2025 to 50% by 2030. While it is encouraging to see APS make this commitment, including its plans to exit coal generation by 2031, there is still more to do and much more we would like to see from APS and Arizona’s other utilities, including support for continued and increased standards for renewable energy and energy efficiency, and a strong commitment to invest in communities affected by coal retirements,” said Sandy Bahr, Chapter Director for Sierra Club’s Grand Canyon (Arizona) Chapter. “With the growing impacts of climate change, a rapid and just transition to solar, wind, and energy efficiency is needed now. ”          

“This commitment by APS to achieve carbon-free electricity generation by 2050 is a significant step in reducing the carbon emissions that drive climate change,” said Autumn Johnson, Western Resource Advocates’ Energy Policy Analyst in Arizona. “APS’ plan to stop using coal to produce electricity will save ratepayers money and increasing the use of renewable energy will lead to a healthier environment here in Arizona, for ourselves and future generations. We look forward to working with APS, the Arizona Corporation Commission, and other stakeholders to make this important commitment a reality.”

“By committing to clean energy targets by 2030 and 2050, APS is demonstrating that it has a long-term vision for a cleaner and healthier Arizona. This is an important step in the right direction, but APS must also show that energy efficiency is a big part of its commitment,” said Ellen Zuckerman, Arizona Representative with the Southwest Energy Efficiency Project. “Energy efficiency must be prioritized as the next step because the right efficiency plan will cut waste, save consumers money, make our homes more comfortable, and make Arizona businesses more profitable.”

“We see this as a step in the right direction for Arizona,” said Nicole Horseherder, Executive Director for To’ Nizhoni Ani.  “APS must keep tribal communities in the forefront as it plans and develops more renewable energy projects in the years ahead. APS must make a clear commitment to support communities dependent on jobs from fossil fuel generation. A long-term plan and support for these communities’ economic future is essential. The abrupt closure of the Navajo Generating Station without a plan in place for impacted Hopi and Navajo families, has left tribal governments scrambling for resources and services.

Amanda Ormond, Director of Western Grid Group notes, “It is gratifying that APS has made this announcement to decidedly move to build a carbon-free portfolio of energy. This move is welcomed and necessary for Arizona to be competitive with neighboring states and to address its carbon emissions.  The next step is to secure this commitment for APS and other regulated utilities through the creation of a carbon standard by the Arizona Corporation Commission.”

APS serves more than 1 million customers in 11 counties mostly in northern and central Arizona, including Phoenix. APS currently has approximately 4,000 megawatts of generating capacity.