Arizona Public Service Co. has announced a plan to be carbon neutral within 30 years. While three decades is a long time, implementing the plan will be a challenge. The end result, however, will be beneficial. This plan differs significantly from the one that California billionaire Tom Steyer tried to push on Arizonans through the ballot box in 2018 and is greatly preferable. Meanwhile, Steyer has moved on to a struggling attempt to be elected to the White House.
The ballot measure would have required just half of electricity to be from renewable sources, but it would have been by 2030 and also would not have included the substantial nuclear power that APS gets from Palo Verde Nuclear Generating Station in the calculation. While nuclear power does produce a small amount of waste that must be quarantined indefinitely, it is not released into the atmosphere and is considered clean energy by APS. Under the failed Proposition 127, customers would have been forced to pay for a too-fast conversion while ignoring the benefits of nuclear power.
APS expects 65% of its power to be carbon neutral by 2030, including 45% from renewable sources, added to the output of Palo Verde. The company now gets a fourth of its power from Palo Verde, which it operates and partially owns. Palo Verde is the largest nuclear plant in the country.
APS and other electric companies have evolved their strategies based on public pressure as well as regulations. The threat of future ballot propositions is likely part of the equation. The transition will be good for the environment. These changes are based on economic considerations as well, especially as use of coal becomes more expensive. Of course, jobs are being lost in coal mining, including many on Native American reservations, and new ideas will be required there also.
Solar technology, including that for battery storage, is improving constantly. Allowing market forces to drive change is crucial, and that means no knee-jerk switch away from nuclear energy.