Arizona Energy Providers and State Universities Join Forces to Pursue a Carbon-Neutral Economy

TEMPE, Ariz. — Four Arizona energy providers and the state’s three public universities are forming a new, interdisciplinary coalition with the goal of attaining a carbon neutral economy in Arizona. Faced with the complexity of reducing carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions across economic sectors, and the urgency to respond to the climate crisis, this coalition will combine its expertise to launch a new center to begin working immediately on strategies and solutions.

Leading professionals from Arizona Public Service Co., Salt River Project, Tucson Electric Power and Southwest Gas, and from Arizona State University, the University of Arizona and Northern Arizona University, will play a crucial leadership role in helping Arizona explore options and strategic pathways that move the state toward a carbon-neutral and thriving economy.

To begin, the coalition established a new ASU-based center called the “Center for an Arizona Carbon-Neutral Economy,” housed within the Julie Ann Wrigley Global Futures Laboratory™ on the ASU Tempe campus. Among its first undertakings, the center will pursue the creation of a regional clean hydrogen hub.

Hydrogen can fuel chemical reactions that release clean energy and produce only water – H2O, not CO2. That means much of the energy used to create pure hydrogen can be essentially “stored” in the gas itself and used to provide carbon-free energy or feedstock on demand. Tapping this potential could help reduce carbon emissions in many sectors of the economy.

In late-October 2021, the U.S. Congress passed the bipartisan Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act, which the President signed in mid-November 2021. The law establishes program guidance and funding to create regional clean hydrogen hubs, which the coalition will seek. The clean hydrogen hub, while still being fully defined, will include hydrogen producers, consumers, and a connected infrastructure so that supply and demand are in sync and appropriately buffered with storage.

Phoenix skyline at sunset.
A successful regional clean hydrogen hub will help address difficult-to-reduce carbon dioxide emissions in the state, as well as grow Arizona’s economy, attract new businesses and create high-quality jobs. When fully operational, a new hub would help support a reliable and resilient electric grid, provide clean energy for the electric, transportation and industrial sectors, and potentially create economic development opportunities in communities that are adversely impacted by the closure of fossil-fueled plants.

Involving these communities in the process is a critical component of the coalition’s work. By engaging a wide range of diverse stakeholders, the group will develop a shared strategy to create a new hydrogen ecosystem and industry in Arizona. Stakeholders will be part of a collaborative network that directly involves communities, tribes, businesses, universities, government agencies, nonprofit organizations, and other interested parties in the process.

Collectively defining the vision, governance, and organizational structure for the hub requires a deeper dive into a myriad of assets and resources available in the state and this effort is already underway.

Arizona is one of the nation's sunniest states, with significant available undeveloped land and abundant clean energy resources. It has the largest nuclear power plant in the nation, energy providers that have committed to reduce carbon dioxide emissions, world-class innovative universities, an established and growing industry base, and a healthy environment for innovation and start-ups. These resources, along with the region’s highly skilled workforce, can be used in producing, moving, storing and using hydrogen. While Arizona is currently a net energy importer, these assets could help the state become an energy exporter, bolstering its economy and helping others’ efforts to achieve their clean energy goals.

Company remarks:

Arizona State University
“ASU’s Global Futures Laboratory exists precisely to take on the challenge of creating a future of opportunity,” said Peter Schlosser, Vice President and Vice Provost of the Julie Ann Wrigley Global Futures Laboratory at ASU. “We welcome the establishment of this new Center, and we are eager to work with the brightest minds from Arizona’s leading energy companies and our sister universities to explore the most effective ways to develop a sustainable and thriving carbon neutral economy.”

University of Arizona
“The University of Arizona is dedicated to a future for Arizona that is both economically and environmentally resilient. The new coalition as well as the Center for an Arizona Carbon-Neutral Economy will help create and secure that future,” said Elizabeth “Betsy” Cantwell, UArizona senior vice president for research and innovation. “We are thrilled to partner with our fellow state universities and local utilities to leverage the power of our place in a living laboratory and create scalable infrastructure for a clean, resilient Arizona.”

Northern Arizona University
“NAU has a long legacy of leadership and commitment to sustainability and this new partnership creates incredible opportunities for our students, faculty and staff to help tackle the important work of creating a carbon-neutral future for Arizona,” said Jason Wilder, NAU Vice President for Research. “. We’re thrilled to be able to help design a cleaner economy that will sustain Arizona into the future and to train the workforce that will be essential to bring these innovations into practice.”

Arizona Public Service
“The need to address the causes and impacts of climate change has never been more important. By partnering with Arizona’s universities and peer utilities, this statewide hub will help advance hydrogen as a clean-energy solution with tremendous potential to accelerate decarbonization,” said APS Chairman, President and CEO Jeff Guldner. “It also will further Arizona’s reputation as a national leader in the clean energy transition while creating economic opportunities for our state and its people.”

Salt River Project
“This challenge is bigger than any one company or industry. SRP appreciates the support and vision of this diverse set of partners willing to roll up their sleeves, work together and find solutions to become a low-net-carbon Arizona.” said Mike Hummel, CEO and General Manager of Salt River Project.

Tucson Electric Power
“The development of a regional clean hydrogen hub could provide critical support for our ongoing transition to a cleaner, cleaner grid,” said Susan Gray, President and CEO of TEP and its parent company, UNS Energy. “We’re looking forward to working together to turn this vision into real, sustainable growth for Arizona’s economy.”

Southwest Gas

“Southwest Gas is committed to helping our customers and the communities we serve achieve emissions reductions goals. Advancing hydrogen technology and increasing availability of hydrogen to the market is strategically important to achieving our clean energy goals. With existing infrastructure that can be used to transport this powerful clean fuel, Southwest Gas is excited to work with this coalition and stakeholders to lead efforts to bring a regional hydrogen hub to our State,” said Dr. Laura Nelson, Vice president, Sustainability and Public Policy

Arizona Sen. Mark Kelly
“Arizona has tremendous potential to lower greenhouse gas emissions by producing clean-burning hydrogen using solar energy,” said Senator Mark Kelly. “I look forward to working with the coalition to increase hydrogen production in our state.”

Arizona Sen. Kyrsten Sinema
“Today’s partnership will pave the way towards a carbon-neutral economy by 2050, creating the jobs of the future and fueling innovation and sustainable energy sources throughout our state,” said Arizona senior Senator Kyrsten Sinema.

Company information:

Arizona Public Service (APS)
APS serves more than 1.3 million homes and businesses in 11 of Arizona’s 15 counties, and is a leader in delivering affordable, clean and reliable energy in the Southwest. The company is committed to serving customers with 100% clean power by 2050. As owner and operator of Palo Verde Generating Station, the nation’s largest producer of carbon-free electricity, and with one of the country’s most substantial renewable energy portfolios, APS’s current energy mix is 50% clean. With headquarters in Phoenix, APS is the principal subsidiary of Pinnacle West Capital Corp. (NYSE: PNW).

Salt River Project
SRP is a community-based, not-for-profit public power utility and the largest electricity provider in the greater Phoenix metropolitan area, serving approximately 1.1 million customers. SRP provides water to about half of the Valley’s residents, delivering more than 244 billion gallons of water (750,000 acre-feet) each year, and manages a 13,000-square-mile watershed that includes an extensive system of reservoirs, wells, canals and irrigation laterals.

Southwest Gas
Celebrating 90 years of providing clean, affordable natural gas service, Southwest Gas Corporation proudly serves over two million customers in Arizona, California, and Nevada safely and reliably. For more information about Southwest Gas, please visit www.swgas.com

Tucson Electric Power (TEP)

TEP provides safe, reliable electric service to more than 438,000 customers in Southern Arizona. For more information, visit tep.com. TEP and its parent company, UNS Energy, are subsidiaries of Fortis Inc. (TSX/NYSE: FTS), which owns utilities that serve more than 3 million customers across Canada and in the United States and the Caribbean. For more information, visit fortisinc.com.

Arizona State University
Arizona State University, ranked No. 1 “Most Innovative School” in the nation by U.S. News & World Report for seven years in succession, has forged the model for a New American University by operating on the principles that learning is a personal and original journey for each student; that they thrive on experience and that the process of discovery cannot be bound by traditional academic disciplines. Through innovation and a commitment to accessibility, ASU has drawn pioneering researchers to its faculty even as it expands opportunities for qualified students.

Northern Arizona University
Northern Arizona University is a high-research institution providing exceptional educational opportunities in Arizona and beyond. NAU delivers a student-centered experience to its nearly 30,000 students in Flagstaff, statewide and online through rigorous academic programs in a supportive, inclusive and diverse environment. Dedicated, world-renowned faculty help ensure students achieve academic excellence, experience personal growth, have meaningful research opportunities and are positioned for personal and professional success.

The University of Arizona

The University of Arizona, a land-grant university with two independently accredited medical schools, is one of the nation's top 50 public universities, according to U.S. News & World Report. Established in 1885, the university is widely recognized as a student-centric university and has been designated as a Hispanic Serving Institution by the U.S. Department of Education. The university ranked in the top 20 in 2020 in research expenditures among all public universities, according to the National Science Foundation, and is a leading Research 1 institution with $761 million in annual research expenditures. The university advances the frontiers of interdisciplinary scholarship and entrepreneurial partnerships as a member of the Association of American Universities, the 66 leading public and private research universities in the U.S. It benefits the state with an estimated economic impact of $4.1 billion annually.

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