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Growing Arizona population raises electricity challenges

Posted at 9:01 PM, Apr 22, 2022
and last updated 2022-04-23 00:01:22-04

PHOENIX — As Arizona's population grows, the demands on water, housing and electricity grows with it.

This week Speaker of the House Rusty Bowers and Senate President Karen Fann announced the legislature will now begin to solicit information from experts and the public about Arizona's evolving energy industry.

"We are committed to ensuring Arizona's electric service remains reliable and affordable and believe a serious discussion by policy makers on this is merited," Speaker Bowers and President Fann said.

A newly created Ad Hoc Committee will study reliability, affordability and the current state of the electric industry in Arizona, among other issues.

At Palo Verde Generating Station this month, crews are busy refueling and performing maintenance on one of its three power units. A process done on each unit every 18 months to make sure all systems are "go."

Palo Verde generates enough power to provide electricity to 4-million customers in four states.

"I can tell you as we look at the near-term future, 2023-2024, we're in good shape to provide that reliable power but there's going to be challenges as they go forward," said Michael McLaughlin Vice President of Site Services at Palo Verde.

While Palo Verde serves as the backbone of APS' energy strategy, the company also relies on other sources of power like wind from the Midwest and hydroelectricity from the Pacific Northwest.

"There is a finite amount of energy that we can purchase from other parties that definitely do not meet all our needs. It meets a fraction," said Justin Joiner, vice president of resource management for APS. Joiner is in charge of finding the power sources APS needs to meet future demand.

"The industry as a whole is tight on resources," Joiner said. "There is not excess sitting out there that we can just take for granted and everybody sits on their hands and do nothing."

APS is confident it will be able to generate the power it needs beyond 2024. But there are some deadlines it will need to meet. In 2031, APS will no longer use coal.

By 2050 the company promises to be 100% clean energy.

"It's going to require an awesome amount of investment today to ensure tomorrows reliability," Joiner said.

SRP is not as confident.

During a recent Arizona Corporation Commission meeting, a company representative said SRP may not be able to provide power to all of its customers after 2024 after the Commission rejected SPR's request to expand a natural gas plant near Coolidge.

"They're not kidding us," Speaker Bowers said of SRP's warning.

The Corporation Commission cited SRP's decision not to get more public input as well as environmental concerns among its reasons for denying the request.