APS announces plan to switch one power plant unit over to seasonal operations in 2023

Hannah Grover
Farmington Daily Times
The Four Corners Power Plant is pictured, Tuesday, Sept. 12, 2017 in Fruitland.

AZTEC — Starting in 2023, one of the two remaining units at the Four Corners Power Plant will only operate from June to October when customer demand is the highest in the southwest.

Arizona Public Service Company announced this change in a press release on March 12. The other unit will continue generating electricity year-round.

The press release states that moving to seasonal operations will make the power plant a more flexible resource and support the increase in clean energy. It states that this will compensate for the intermittent output of renewable resources.

More:PRC orders PNM to file amended application for Four Corners Power Plant ownership transfer

The change comes through an agreement between the plant owners, APS, Public Service Company of New Mexico, Navajo Transitional Energy Company and Tucson Electric Power.

It also comes as PNM prepares to transfer its 13% ownership share in the power plant to NTEC.

"Four Corners has provided reliable and affordable electricity for almost 60 years, fostering economic growth and prosperity in cities and towns throughout the region," said Jacob Tetlow, Senior Vice President of Operations at APS, in a press release. "With seasonal operations, the plant will continue to be a critical source of reliable electricity when our customers need it most and enable a responsible transition to a cleaner energy future."

APS, which operates the power plant, does not anticipate the change leading to any layoffs or furloughs.

As APS announced the change in operations, PNM stated in a separate press release that it plans to amend its application pending before the New Mexico Public Regulation Commission to transfer the ownership of its share of the Four Corners Power Plant to NTEC. This comes at the request of PRC hearing examiners. The hearing examiners also ordered PNM to present evidence that past investments into the power plant were prudent. 

PNM stated in a press release on March 12 that transferring the ownership to NTEC in 2024 will end its use of coal-fired generation and save customers $30 to $300 million. PNM is seeking PRC approval to refinance past investments into the power plant through securitization, which would also provide funding for worker training and community economic diversification in San Juan County.

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But the Sierra Club sent out a press release after the APS announcement stating that PNM customers will still bear the cost of the coal-fired power plant into the future and noted that PNM is seeking to spend another $73 million in improvement expenditures at Four Corners before transferring the ownership to NTEC.

"PNM is not absolved of its responsibility to the climate by simply transferring its ownership of the plant to another utility," Sierra Club Rio Grande Chapter Director Camilla Feibelman stated in the press release. "If PNM wants to be a climate steward, it needs to facilitate the early retirement of its coal plants while supporting just and equitable transition in partnership with coal-impacted communities."

The Sierra Club is advocating for APS to close the power plant in 2023 rather than keep it operating. The environmental advocacy group states that this will save customers money. The plant is currently scheduled to close in 2031.

Hannah Grover covers government for The Daily Times. She can be reached at 505-564-4652 or via email at hgrover@daily-times.com.

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