A draft alternative energy plan prepared by the staff of Salt River Project proposes that the utility acquire 15 percent of its electricity from sustainable energy sources such as wind and solar by 2025, up from 2 percent now.
Despite the increase, at least one renewable energy advocate is criticizing the plan as inadequate. Adam Browning, director of operations for the San Francisco-based Vote Solar Initiative, said the proposal redefines what is considered sustainable energy and includes a credit carryforward provision, which together mean SRP would not have to acquire more energy from alternatives such as solar, geothermal, biomass and wind technologies until 2021.
“The first draft . . . will result in very little new renewable energy projects brought on line,” he said.
Karen Smith, principal planning analyst for SRP, defended the draft plan as clarifying what is considered sustainable energy while the energy credits give the utility greater operating flexibility. However, she said the staff will consider public comments before presenting a final proposal to the SRP board of directors for its approval.
“I think there will be some modifications to the basic proposal, but what exactly they will be, we don’t know yet,” she said.
Smith disagreed with Browning’s assessment that SRP would not have to generate additional power using new nonpolluting technologies before 2021.
“There is no doubt that we will be adding (renewable) resources to our portfolio,” she said.
“We have been working with (suppliers of alternative energy) over the past six to nine months to investigate opportunities. After we get these marching orders, we will have clear direction from the board and we can be more free is speaking with these parties.”
In one of the provisions creating controversy, the plan proposes that energy acquired from large hydroelectric dams through contracts with the federal government be included within the 15 percent portion designated as sustainable energy.
SRP does not include large hydro in calculating its sustainable percentage.
Browning said many state regulatory agencies do not include large hydro projects in their sustainable energy programs in an effort to spur development of new energy sources.
As a quasi-governmental entity, SRP is not subject to regulations of the Arizona Corporation Commission, and it is moving forward with its own program voluntarily.
The ACC is proposing a standard that would require Arizona Public Service and Tucson Electric Power also to acquire 15 percent of their energy from sustainable sources by 2015, but it does not include existing largehydro contracts in calculating that percentage, said commission spokeswoman Heather Murphy.
“Arizona’s portfolio doesn’t focus on what is existing. It is focused on the future and adding new technologies to the fuel mix,” she said.
Under the credit carryforward provision, if SRP exceeds its percentage goal for sustainable energy in one year, the excess amount could be carried forward to meet the goals for future years.
Smith said that arrangement gives SRP an incentive to exceed its annual goals as it ramps up to 15 percent in 2025, but Browning said the utility also has “set up a situation where they don’t necessarily commit themselves to doing anything (until 2021).”
Chuck Skidmore, energy management engineer for Scottsdale, who has been following SRP’s deliberations closely, said he would like to see SRP stretch its renewable goal a little higher.
“SRP has been wonderful for our city . . . but I would like them to push the limits a bit,” he said. “If we don’t start thinking about the future and doing what needs to be done, we won’t get there in time.”
The final version of the plan is scheduled to be presented to the SRP board’s power committee Jan. 26.
If the committee approves the program, it will be considered for final approval by the full 16-member board of directors on Feb. 6.