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APS Opens New Solar Plant Near Gila Bend
APS opens new solar plant near Gila Bend
Mark Olalde, The Republic | azcentral.com 8:52 p.m. MST November 15, 2014 -- Arizona Public Service Co. recently opened a solar power plant near Gila Bend that brings the state's largest utility closer to its renewable-energy goals.
 
The Gila Bend Solar Power Plant is the newest in APS' AZ Sun program, which now includes seven solar-energy plants around the state. Two more solar plants are in the permitting and planning stages.
 
"It's a good, solid producer of generation for APS. It's a really critical part of our portfolio," APS solar generation manager Jim Piotrowski said. "The solar is very good for APS and our customers."
 
Arizona, the sunniest state in the country, has a Renewable Energy Standard that requires 15 percent of electricity consumption by 2025 to come from renewables, including 4.5 percent this year.
 
The Gila Bend plant became fully operational on Oct. 31 after seven months of construction and another two months of testing. It cost roughly $100 million and has an expected lifespan of 30 years.
 
Built on 400 acres, the plant is expected to generate 32 megawatts, enough energy to power 8,000 homes, all while operating more efficiently than APS' older solar sites.
 
The new plant uses trackers to follow the sun across the sky, which are more expensive to build but allow the plant to generate more power throughout the day.
 
"Obviously, we learn as we've gone forward," Piotrowski said, explaining that the site's design criteria "are better suited for the hot desert out in the sun. So, we get more energy out of these newer plants."
 
APS' older solar technology was tested to work in temperature conditions around 25 degrees Celsius, or 77 degrees Fahrenheit. That standard was changed to 65 Celsius, or 149 Fahrenheit, for the new plant.
 
The Gila Bend area now houses four plants producing solar energy for APS. The plants have a combined output of 316 megawatts, or the equivalent of powering between 70,000 and 90,000 homes.
 
"Gila Bend is a great area to build solar. They've done a lot to expedite the permitting process," Piotrowski said.
 
Three of the plants, including Gila Bend, are owned by APS. The other two APS installations are the Paloma Solar Power Plant and the Cotton Center Solar Power Plant. Both came online in late 2011 and produce 17 megawatts each.
Read more...
 
Arizona's Approach to Energy Efficiency Programs is Conservative
Arizona's Approach to Energy Efficiency Programs is Conservative
Ryan Randazzo, The Republic | azcentral.com 1:16 p.m. MST November 14, 2014 -- Arizona already has one of the most conservative cost/benefit calculations in the nation for energy efficiency programs used by utilities, making it harder for the programs to win approval than in other states.
 
The Arizona Corporation Commission has proposed repealing the state requirement that utilities conserve 22 percent of their projected electricity sales by 2020. The standard drives most efficiency projects at regulated utilities.
 
Today it works like this. Utilities such as Arizona Public Service and Tucson Electric Power submit plans to comply with the state standard. In the annual plans, they suggest particular measures, such as giving away shade trees or offering rebates on pool pumps or air conditioners.
 
The commission staff reviews the proposals and determines whether the energy savings expected from each measure are greater than the costs. The commission's test looks strictly at the avoided electricity costs versus the price of the measure, with no credit for environmental or health benefits, including carbon pollution, which the Environmental Protection Agency is moving to limit from power plants.
 
The ACC staff also doesn't provide any credit for the reduction in water used at power plants when energy is conserved.
 
Commission spokeswoman Rebecca Wilder said those issues "are taken into consideration," but not used in the actual calculation to determine whether a measure is cost effective.
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Arizona Energy-Saving Programs in Jeopardy
Arizona Energy-Saving Programs in Jeopardy
Ryan Randazzo, The Republic | azcentral.com 9:11 p.m. MST November 5, 2014 -- The Arizona Corporation Commission has proposed eliminating the requirements for utilities to meet a portion of their energy demand through efficiency programs that reduce consumption.
 
Those programs, which also conserve water and reduce pollution, are projected to save consumers $9billion on their utility bills through 2020.
 
The staff at the commission on Tuesday filed its proposal, which must be weighed by the five elected commissioners. The regulators set rates and policies for utilities.
 
"At the end of the day, we want to be as energy-efficient of a state as we can but not overpay for this energy efficiency," said Commissioner Gary Pierce, who earlier this year asked the commission staff for ideas to amend the rules.
 
A bipartisan commission approved the energy-efficiency standard in 2010 on a 5-0 vote. The standard requires electric utilities to reduce the amount of power they sell by 22 percent by 2020 by helping customers conserve. A separate rule was subsequently passed regarding natural-gas utilities, requiring them to conserve 6 percent by 2020.
 
"The rules were set up, and it was pretty easy at first to capture all the low-hanging fruit," said Pierce, a Republican who voted for the rules in 2010. "But as we started reaching, these companies, because they are under an order to reach certain levels of energy efficiency, they were looking for stuff and trying to plug it in no matter what the costs."
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Republicans Forese, Little Win Arizona Corporation Commission Race
Republicans Forese, Little Win Arizona Corporation Commission Race
Ryan Randazzo, The Republic | azcentral.com 9:40 p.m. MST November 4, 2014 -- Republicans Tom Forese and Doug Little defeated Democrats Jim Holway and Sandra Kennedy in the race for two open seats on the Arizona Corporation Commission on Tuesday night.
 
The five-member commission regulates and sets rates for major utilities such as Arizona Public Service Co., Southwest Gas Corp. and Tucson Electric Power Co. It also sets policies, such as how much renewable energy the Littlecompanies must use.Forese
 
Republicans Forese and Little benefited from more than $3.2 million in political advertising by independent groups during their primary- and general-election campaigns. The money went to ads in support of Forese and Little and hit pieces opposing their rivals.
 
APS is widely believed to have contributed to the independent groups that supported Forese and Little and ran $1.3 million in negative ads against Democrat Sandra Kennedy as well as primary opponents of Forese and Little.
 
The housing industry also was involved in the "dark money" campaigns, with money coming from a group called Save Our Future Now. That group lists the same address as a political group called "Save Glendale Now," where Connie Wilhelm of the Home Builders Association of Central Arizona served as treasurer. Wilhelm has close ties to APS.
 
The three sitting commissioners, all Republicans, won election in 2012 with the help of APS and Southwest Gas, both of which donated to a political group run by the Arizona Chamber of Commerce and Industry. The group, under the direction of Chamber President Glenn Hamer, sent mailers opposing Democrats running for the commission in 2012, including Kennedy, who lost a re-election bid.
Read more...
 
APS Parent Reports 8 Percent Rise in Profit
APS Parent Reports 8 Percent Rise in Profit
Ryan Randazzo, The Republic | azcentral.com 12:02 a.m. MST November 1, 2014 -- Pinnacle West Capital Corp., the parent company of Arizona Public Service Co., boosted its third-quarter profit almost 8 percent despite mild weather that lowered electricity demand in July, August and September.
 
The company earned a profit of $244 million, or $2.20 per share, compared with $226.2 million, or $2.04 per share, in the same quarter a year ago.
 
President/CEO Don Brandt said the company was able to increase profits by lowering operations and maintenance costs.
 
That offset the mildest August weather in 20 years, based on a measure called cooling-degree days.
Read more...
 

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