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Salt River Project is a quasi-governmental entity that provides water and electricity to major parts of the Phoenix metropolitan area. It was founded more than a century ago out of necessity and has been a major player in the growth of the Valley. In recent decades SRP’s need to generate more power has led to expanded operations in Pinal County, and the arrangement has worked well because SRP seeks to be a good corporate citizen.

Controversy arose more than 15 years ago over routing of an SRP transmission line in the Casa Grande area, but a compromise on location was reached. The need for the line was simply to provide power to a growing customer base in the Valley, not in the immediate area. Pinal is a major connecting point for transmission lines, and it also has become a home to SRP power plants. These are fueled by natural gas, which is a relatively clean way to generate electricity, although there now is much pressure about reducing greenhouse gases. Arizona’s regulators and utilities have responded in moving over time toward carbon-free electricity. They also are moving away from dirtier coal generation in northern and eastern Arizona.

SRP owns a power plant on the west side of Casa Grande and one in southern Coolidge. They each generate about 575 megawatts of electricity. Now SRP wants to expand the Coolidge Generating Station to more than double its capacity. One benefit for SRP is that the plant is designed to ramp up within minutes as the power demand in the Valley grows on hot days.

A big benefit to our area and Pinal County is that SRP makes “in-lieu” payments, the equivalent of what it would pay in property taxes if it were a for-profit company. That would mean $18.5 million a year for Pinal County, $10.8 million for Coolidge, $31.6 million for Coolidge schools and $11.4 million to Central Arizona College.

The demand for electricity is growing with Arizona’s growth and also with more use of electric devices, including autos. For now, that need cannot be supplied with carbon-free sources, although it likely will be in future decades. Even though the power generated is going north, the expansion is important and desirable.

— Donovan Kramer Jr.

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