From the Office of Commissioner Andy Tobin

 For Immediate Release | 9-20-18   
 Media Contact | Holly Ward   
 Direct | 602-542-3847   
 E-Mail |   

Calculations Show Arizona Energy Modernization Plan Could Save Arizona Billions of Gallons of Water


PHOENIX — Based on an updated analysis of water use under alternative energy portfolios from the Western Resource Advocates, the Arizona Corporation Commission now has an estimate of potential water savings the proposed Arizona Energy Modernization Plan could bring for the state of Arizona.

On January 30 of this year, Commissioner Tobin announced a bold new proposal to have 80 percent of Arizona’s total energy portfolio come from “clean energy resources” by 2050. According to Commissioner Tobin, the percentage and timeframe proposed in his Arizona Energy Modernization Plan were calculated based on realistic capabilities of Arizona’s utilities and actual customer needs that are unique to Arizona. The Arizona Energy Modernization Plan, however, did not originally highlight the potential water savings to the state.

According to the Western Resource Advocates, if Arizona’s two largest regulated utilities advanced clean energy portfolios, similar to those proposed in the Arizona Energy Modernization Plan, Arizona could save a cumulative total of as much as 43.9 billion gallons of water (135,000 acre-feet) by 2032. For reference, Saguaro Lake, which is just east of Metro Phoenix along the Salt River, is 69,000 acre-feet. By 2050, the potential cumulative savings could range between 423,000 acre-feet and 713,000 acre-feet, which is roughly equivalent to Apache Lake and Lake Havasu, respectively.

The Arizona Energy Modernization Plan views nuclear energy as vital to meeting its clean energy goals. Because Palo Verde Nuclear Generating Station will continue to have a central role in Arizona’s clean energy mix well into the future, a vast majority of the water savings calculated in this report come from the planned retirements of coal plants across the state. Other savings potential may be realized depending on future energy plan designs and expansion of clean energy goals statewide. The Arizona Energy Modernization Plan asks non-regulated utilities, such as SRP, to voluntarily participate.

This update is especially timely as Arizona’s water conversation accelerates due to drought contingency concerns looming on Arizona’s horizon. According to the Bureau of Reclamation, there is a 57 percent chance of a water shortage on Lake Mead in 2020.

“The implications for conservation and Arizona’s economy are substantial, as well as the potential impact on future water strategies,” said Commissioner Tobin.

“The Arizona Corporation Commission can play an important role in reducing the Arizona energy sector’s water demands, which, over the long term, can help mitigate the impacts of drought and the likelihood of shortage,” said the Western Resource Advocates.

While conventional fossil fuel plants use steam turbines, evaporative cooling, and other water resources to generate electricity, non-conventional technologies such as solar, wind, and energy storage do not.

Commissioner Tobin emphasizes that the biomass portion of the Arizona Energy Modernization Plan may also save water for Arizona, on its own. Researchers related to the Four Forest Restoration Initiative (4FRI), Northern Arizona University (NAU), and Arizona State University (ASU) have estimated that Arizona groundwater recharge rates could increase by an additional two to eight percent in some groundwater basins due to the forest restoration and watershed improvements that would likely result from Commissioner Tobin’s proposal.

“The potential water benefits for our rural watersheds has always been an important element for me with this biomass component,” said Commissioner Tobin. “But those savings are mere ‘drops’ compared to this potential calculation from the Western Resource Advocates.”

According to the Arizona Public Service (APS) and Tucson Electric Power (TEP) 2017 Integrated Resource Plans, Arizona’s regulated utilities currently use over 20.15 billion gallons (61,838 acre-feet) of water per year to generate electricity for Arizona’s customers. The Western Resource Advocates say that by 2032 their alternative portfolios would reduce this annual amount by nearly 25 percent in comparison to the utilities’ preferred energy projections, which would be “enough water to meet the household needs of 160,000 residents.”

Commissioner Tobin states that he will record this data in the appropriate rulemaking docket as further evidence that the Arizona Energy Modernization Plan should not be further delayed, saying, “To witness these savings I call on my fellow Commissioners to advance the Arizona Energy Modernization Plan to the final rule process as soon as possible.”

The Arizona Energy Modernization Plan can be viewed at

The Western Resource Advocates’ updated report can be viewed at

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About Commissioner Andy Tobin:

Commissioner Andy Tobin was first elected to the Arizona House of Representatives in 2006 and served as Speaker of the House from 2011 to 2014. His leadership within the State of Arizona includes his time as former Director of the Arizona Department of Weights and Measures, Director of the Arizona Department of Insurance, and Acting Director for the Arizona Department of Financial Services. Mr. Tobin also served as National President of the U.S. Jaycees Foundation. He was appointed by Governor Doug Ducey to fill a vacant seat on the Arizona Corporation Commission in 2015 and elected to serve a full term in 2016. During his time at the Commission, Commissioner Tobin has focused on getting broadband (internet) connections into rural Arizona schools, been instrumental in establishing the Water Emergency Team to proactively protect Arizona’s water supply, and introduced the Arizona Energy Modernization Plan, which calls for 80 percent of the state’s electricity generation to come from clean energy by 2050 and advocates for an end to devastating wildfires through the adoption of biomass related energy.

The Arizona Corporation Commission was established by the state’s constitution to regulate public utilities and business incorporation. The five Commissioners elected to the Corporation Commission oversee executive, legislative, and judicial proceedings on behalf of Arizonans when it comes to their water, electricity, telephone, and natural gas resources as well as the regulation of securities, pipeline, and railroad safety. To learn more about the Arizona Corporation Commission and its Commissioners, visit