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Arizona Public Service using solar, storage & nuclear to reach 100 percent carbon-free energy by 2050

Joining the ranks of utilities promising major changes to their generation mixes, Arizona Public Service announced Wednesday it plans to deliver 100 percent carbon-free electricity by 2050.

The goal will be achieved by an array of solar power innovation, energy storage, nuclear and energy efficiency, APS said in its statement. The 30-year plan includes a near-term target of 65-percent clean energy by 2030, with some 45 percent of their portfolio being generated by renewable resources.

APS will continue to use natural gas, which is lower emitting than coal, as a transitional fuel, but contends that future technological advances will eliminate the need to supplement renewables with gas-fired or other fossil resources.

The Arizona utility plans to increase its energy storage capacity by 850 MW paired with solar facilities. Grid modernization, electrification of the transportation sector, building efficiencies and participation in evolving regional and market-based solutions such as the Western Energy Imbalance Market will help fill the gaps and maintain affordability for customers, the utility says.

“Our existing generation facilities, employees and communities have made possible the affordable and reliable energy APS has delivered to customers for decades,” APS President Jeff Guldner said. “As we set out to generate only clean power by 2050, it will mean transitioning away from coal. We do not take that transition lightly, and are committed to working with our employees and stakeholders on the economic and other effects of retiring those assets.
APS admitted that some of the solutions needed to achieve the goal are in early stages or even yet to be developed. It credited stakeholders and partners with the success achieved so far.

The utility currently gains nearly half of its electricity from gas-fired generation, with nuclear and coal representing 22 and 18 percent of the mix, respectively. Hydropower and solar comprise most of the remaining 10 percent, according to reports.

APS plans to close its coal-fired Four Corners plant in New Mexico by 2031, seven years earlier than previously scheduled.

Salt River Project, APS and other partners agreed to close the 2,250-MW coal-fired Navajo Generating Station last year, shutting down one of the biggest such plants in the western U.S.

In the U.S., MidAmerican Energy, Xcel Energy, Hawaiian Electric Co., and other utilities have joined at least eight states in promising to reach 100-percent carbon-free energy targets within a few decades.

Julia Hamm, President and CEO of the Smart Electric Power Alliance (SEPA) has issued the following statement on the APS announcement:

“A number of major U.S. utilities have made commitments to carbon-free by 2050, but Arizona Public Service stands out in the crowd. While any carbon reduction commitment is laudable, APS is among the very small handful of utilities that have coupled their commitment with an aggressive but reasonable interim target and specific actions that demonstrate meaningful progress.”