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AEE and APS Target 10 Solutions for Arizona’s Clean Energy Future

Arizona APS 10 Solutions-730

Advanced Energy Economy (AEE) and Arizona Public Service (APS) have been working together to identify solution opportunities to help APS achieve its ambitious goals for clean energy and support electrification of the transportation sector. This collaboration is known as the Arizona Clean Energy Future project. In January 2020, APS announced a goal to deliver 100% clean, carbon-free electricity to its customers by 2050. APS set nearer-term targets of reaching 65% clean energy by 2030, with 45% coming from renewable energy. APS also plans to end all coal-based generation by 2031, seven years sooner than previously projected. To help achieve these targets, AEE and APS discussed ways AEE member companies could help in advancing towards these targets. Bringing together product development and creative thinkers from our companies has allowed us to leverage their expertise and brainstorm possible solutions, finally narrowing them down to 10.

Beginning October 16, 2019, key member companies from AEE identified over 30 solution opportunities and have since prioritized 10 of them based on screening criteria developed by a team of APS and AEE staff. The companies involved in this effort include external industry experts to help imagine, evaluate, and implement solutions for providing safe, reliable, affordable electricity from carbon-free resources, as well as supporting a transition to electric vehicles. The 15 AEE member companies integrated in the novel partnership include: Arcadia, Cypress Creek Renewables, EnergyHub, EVgo, Form Energy, Highland Electric Transportation, Landis+Gyr, Modern Energy, NuScale Power, Pattern Energy, Recurve, Schneider-Electric, Siemens, sPower, and Uplight.

The 10 priority solutions fall within three categories: Electrifying Transportation, Enhancing Grid Flexibility, and Expanding Zero/Low-Carbon Generation, with work streams for each category listed below.

Electrifying Transportation

  1. EV Charging Infrastructure to Maximize Customer & Grid Benefits. Develop an electric vehicle (EV) infrastructure program to support different EV charging use cases, including public, workplace, multi-unit dwelling, fleet, and residential charging. Creative mechanisms seek to spur investments by market players into charging infrastructure, as well as encourage charging behaviors that benefit all users of the grid. The concept also develops solutions to address underserved customer segments and defines best practices to determine when utility ownership of charging infrastructure would best serve the public need.
  2. Electric School Bus Vehicle-to-Grid Capabilities. Design a scalable model for school bus electrification, overcoming the upfront cost with financing that monetizes future cost savings from fueling and maintenance, and future revenue streams from vehicle-to-grid services. The ultimate goal is to implement a pilot that would demonstrate the value of battery-powered school buses to absorb excess solar generation and provide vehicle-to-grid power during peak demand all while providing a clean mode of transportation for children.
  3. EV-as-a-Service for Ride Sharing Fleets/Drivers. Overcome various obstacles for EV adoption by offering drivers the ability to pay for a bundled EV and charging service through a simple fee per mile of usage. The EVs and charging infrastructure would be owned by an entity comprised of different investors, including non-regulated arms of utilities. The goal is to create an EV and charger network in the Phoenix area that will have sufficient usage to make the enterprise profitable from the outset, thereby lowering the cost of financing and the costs to end users. The program will initially target high-usage, ride-sharing fleets and expand to other use-cases as the network scales and costs come down.

Enhancing Grid Flexibility

  1. Creating Resource Adequacy and Equivalency Through DER Aggregation and Enhanced Analytics. Properly optimized, aggregated DERs (from devices like smart thermostats, pool pumps and heaters, water heaters, and EV chargers) have the potential to provide resource adequacy and equivalency to utilities. This virtual power plant vision requires coordination among many different utility systems, plus enhanced visibility into customer usage, better intelligence about customer technology adoption, and rigorous feedback loops that improve customer experience over time. This working group will use the gap analysis to advise how APS can improve existing information systems and suggest what new processes, software integrations, or procurements will be necessary to optimize and rapidly scale existing and future DER fleets.   
  2. Clean Hydrogen for Decarbonization, Storage, and Economic Development.Hydrogen can play a critical role in decarbonizing APS’s fossil fleet by leveraging existing technologies in the near term and converting excess renewable energy to sustainable chemical products that can provide long-term storage solutions in the future. Furthermore, hydrogen can be converted to other carbon-free fuels and chemicals with a variety of storage and commercial applications such as long-haul truck or aviation transport, which in turn can support clean energy industries and spur economic development.
  3. Next Generation Devices for HVAC and Resiliency. The proposed single energy system will integrate micro turbine, heat pump, and thermal storage to efficiently provide a home or building with all electricity (including back-up generation), heating, cooling, and hot water. The technology, which is fuel agnostic, provides a direct path to decarbonizing building energy consumption and aims to achieve a 50% reduction in energy use. Moreover, a distributed fleet of these systems could be aggregated into a virtual power plant that can increase grid reliability and resiliency.
  4. Small Modular Nuclear Reactor Capabilities. Small modular reactor (SMR) nuclear technologies are showing promise in bringing zero-carbon solutions, in addition to high capacity and flexible load following electricity production, making it a malleable electricity generating solution to integrate with intermittent renewable energy resources. This work stream looks to review SMR technology cost/value proposition, operational capabilities, and future commercialization outlook.

Expanding Zero/Low-Carbon Generation Capacity

  1. Project Specific Clean/Green Power Programs. As more customers develop sustainability goals, APS is interested in developing pathways to help customers meet their increasing demand for clean/green energy. This solution would create products (tariffs/riders) for customers that tie their load to a specific portfolio of clean energy projects. The solution would in turn improve APS’s customer engagement and satisfaction by helping them reach their goals.
  2. Enhancing Operation of Renewable Generation. The grid must be in balance on a moment-to-moment basis for generation and customer demand; however, renewable generation traditionally is based on weather conditions and not responsive to meeting customer demands and system reliability. This solution seeks to resolve renewable operational challenges with high penetration of renewables and limited control by investigating new technology, accounting, and contract structures to maximize resource flexibility, reliability, and customer affordability
  3. Getting to Zero: Planning for a Reliable and Cost-Effective Low Carbon Grid. Legacy resource planning models were not originally designed to capture the dynamics of deeply decarbonized grids. While these models are quickly adapting to a clean energy future, there is still much progress remaining to be made. As such, these models may not produce the most optimized planning portfolios for APS’s long-term goals, most notably carbon reduction, cost, customer-centricity, and transparency. This solution proposes near-term steps APS can take to improve its resource and system planning and a long-term framework for APS to continue developing, refining, and adopting future tools and processes.

Teams from APS, AEE, and our member companies are in the process of building roadmaps for each of the potential solution opportunities. The roadmaps will discuss the benefits of the proposed solutions, related costs, likely barriers, as well as potential implementation options. The project teams will present the roadmap to APS executives on July 8, 2020.

We are excited about this collaborative approach to problem solving and proud to be part of the groundbreaking concept of AEE members throughout the power sector working directly with a utility company on pathways for achieving a clean energy future.  

Judson Tillinghast is Leader, Product Development and Strategy, Customer to Grid Solutions, for Arizona Public Service.

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