APS to go to 100% clean energy by 2050


Arizona Public Service (APS), the largest utility in the state, announced yesterday that the company will be transitioning to sourcing 100% clean, zero-carbon electricity by 2050. The goal includes a nearer-term target of achieving 65% clean energy by 2030, with 45% of the company’s portfolio coming from renewable energy. The company currently sources about 13% of its electricity from renewables.

This is the first decarbonization goal that APS has ever set, making it one of the last in the country to do so.

In fact, prior to this announcement, APS actively worked against previous measures to raise the statewide Renewable Energy Standard.

“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.
APS will also end all coal-fired generation by 2031, seven years sooner than previously projected. The company will continue to operate gas-fired power plants, though it is unclear if the company plans on building any new gas plants, as former CEO Don Brandt had been keen on doing prior to his departure. The company also shared that it will continue to operate the nation’s largest nuclear plant, the 3.3 GW Palo Verde nuclear power plant.

This decision by an operator of the nation’s largest nuclear plant and one of the last utilities without a carbon reduction goal drew excitement from renewable energy proponents and climate conservationists alike.

“We welcome this decision by APS to greatly increase its use of renewable energy over the next decade and to commit to 100% carbon-free electricity generation by 2050,” “This important step by APS will benefit ratepayers, as renewable energy continues to be less expensive than fossil-fuel generation. At the same time, reducing the carbon emissions that drive climate change will result in better air quality, fewer climate costs and risks, and a healthier environment in Arizona, now and for future generations.”

And while the announcement has been met with overall praise, that praise does not necessarily come from the structure of the carbon-reduction goal, but rather that the utility established one in the first place. Sierra Club notably outlined some shortcomings in APS’ announcement:

APS made no mention of what support it would provide communities that are impacted by coal retirements. Two weeks ago, Tri-State Generation and Transmission committed $5 million to the New Mexico community impacted by the closure of Escalante and plans on working with the state to support the community.
The group also challenged APS’s commitment to gas in the short term, citing a Rocky Mountain Institute study which found that 90% of proposed combined-cycle gas plants in the next five years could be cost-effectively avoided with clean energy. The study finds that the new plants will be uneconomical by 2035.


As historically ham-fisted as APS has been in holding onto coal and gas, the company could well be coming around to the evolving economics of renewable energy. APS has been quick to invest in large-scale solar in the past and announced last year plans to deploy a massive 850 MW of battery storage by 2025, as well as 100 MW of new solar.
EDIT 1/27/19: It has come to our intention that a previous version of this article misattributed a statement received from Sierra Club to Vote Solar. We apologize for the mistake.

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