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How Natural Gas Supports Reliability and the Transition to Clean Energy

Natural gas is a critical resource in APS’s diverse energy mix

 

Anyone who has experienced an Arizona summer knows that reliable energy is critical for everyday life. When temperatures soar above 100 degrees, we rely on our ACs to keep us cool. Even when the sun goes down, temperatures can stay in the 90s. APS must ensure it has enough reliable energy to serve customers through our hottest days.

 

Natural gas is a critical resource serving APS customers, especially during extreme weather. If selected through our competitive procurement process, we plan to add about 390 megawatts of natural gas capacity at existing power plants in the next few years – enough to serve 62,400 Arizona homes. By adding new, more efficient units at these plants, we can use the current infrastructure and pipeline to generate more energy for customers.

 

Why gas? Reliable power when customers need it most

With rising temperatures and a growing state, energy demand is at an all-time high. Modern natural gas units offer flexible, on-demand energy 24/7. We can turn them on when energy needs peak – during the late afternoon and evening hours of summer when our customers use the most energy – and turn them off when use slows or other resources, such as solar, come online.

 

Hilary Waterman has spent many years as an environmental engineer, overseeing the air quality control systems at natural gas power plants, which she says helps inform her current work with APS’s Sustainability team.

 

“There are many ways that natural gas helps support reliability,” said Waterman. “We   purchase fuel ahead of time and plan for peak electricity demand. Natural gas turbine technologies also allow for quick adjustments of power production, helping APS meet high electricity demand.”

 

Natural gas supports our transition to clean energy

We remain fully committed and on track to achieve our Clean Energy Commitment to provide 100% clean, carbon-free electricity to customers by 2050. Investing in natural gas power plants while transitioning to clean energy might seem surprising. But as we add natural gas megawatts to our system over the next few years, we’re also adding about five times as much renewable energy technology, including solar, wind and energy storage. We're committed to working with customers, community members and stakeholders as we plan for these new resources.

 

“Natural gas’s flexibility and reliability are why it has a role as a bridge fuel to help us move towards our Clean Energy Commitment, while still serving our customers with reliable, affordable and safe energy on the hottest days of the year,” said Waterman.

 

The state-of-the-art natural gas units we plan to deploy are also “clean capable,” meaning they will ultimately be able to burn 100% clean, carbon-free hydrogen once that resource becomes commercially viable.

 

A diverse energy portfolio is key

While natural gas is critical for reliable energy, a diverse energy portfolio is also important. “Don’t put all your eggs in one basket” is a saying most of us have heard. When it comes to planning for high energy demand, we’re investing in different resource “baskets” to support our customers. Having a variety of resources – including natural gas, nuclear, solar, energy storage and energy-saving customer programs – in our portfolio makes our system more resilient to the extreme temperatures that we experience throughout the summer months. This is especially important as our state’s energy needs continue to grow. 

 

“Proactive, year-round resource planning and a diverse energy mix are essential for providing reliable power,” said Justin Joiner, vice president of resource management at APS. “On days when the temperature is sweltering, we take an all-of-the-above approach. We’re using all the tools in our toolbox—from solar power to natural gas—to make sure customers can count on us for electricity every second of the day.”

Ocotillo power plant

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