Two more utilities in Arizona and Colorado are moving to accelerate closure of coal plants and replace them with renewable energy backed by batteries, joining a broader push in both states to shift to more cost-effective clean energy options even in the absence of state mandates.
Tucson Electric Power on Friday released a long-term energy plan that calls for closing its remaining coal plants by 2032, on the way to 70 percent renewables by 2035. Arizona’s biggest utility, Arizona Public Service (APS), recently announced its own carbon-free energy by 2050 plan, despite a lack of state mandates requiring such a transition.
Meanwhile, Colorado Springs Utilities said it would close its remaining coal plants by 2030. Along with accelerated coal closure plans from two other Colorado utilities, this will leave multi-state utility Xcel Energy, which has committed to 100-percent carbon-free electricity by 2050, the only one to keep coal plants open past the end of the decade.
Colorado wants to get half of its power from renewable by 2030 and 90 percent by 2050.
Arizona’s transition from coal to renewables and batteries
Tucson Electric Power’s 2020 Integrated Resource Plan calls for a steady phase-down of its coal-fired Springerville Generating Station: the plant would start operating on a seasonal basis in 2023, close down one of its 425-megawatts unit in 2027, and the other remaining unit by 2032.
At the same time, the plan would see TEP adding 1.7 gigawatts of solar, 850 megawatts of wind and nearly 1.4 gigawatts of energy storage by 2035. Alongside a big boost in its energy efficiency efforts, TEP says the plan would allow it to avoid building any new natural gas plants.
TEP, which serves about 430,000 customers, had already exited the Navajo Generating Station coal plant in Arizona, owned by Arizona utility Salt River Project, which closed last year. It is also planning to exit the San Juan and Four Corners coal plants in New Mexico, owned by utilities Public Service Co. of New Mexico and APS, respectively. Both plants are in the Navajo Nation, which has asked Arizona regulators to require the utility to pay up to $62 million to compensate for resulting economic losses.
Springerville’s remaining two units are owned by electric cooperative Tri-State Generation and and Salt River Project. Tri-State, which serves 43 electric co-op members and more than 1 million people in four Western states, plans to abandon coal and add more than 1 gigawatt of utility-scale renewable generation to its portfolio by 2030.
APS has committed to 100-percent clean power by 2050, including an interim target of 65 percent by 2030. That target will make use of the roughly 25 percent of its capacity provided by the Palo Verde nuclear power plant, as well as 45 percent renewable energy, largely solar power.
The Arizona Corporation Commission (ACC) hasn’t imposed any clean energy or carbon reduction mandates on the state’s utilities, and it…
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