Unisource files ‘integrated resources’ plan with ACC

KINGMAN – UniSource Energy Services has filed an “integrated resources” plan with the Arizona Corporation Commission that the company says will build a stronger, more self-reliant resource portfolio for its electric customers.

The plan is to expand UniSource’s resources with natural gas plants and cost-effective renewable resources, including a 5-megawatt photovoltaic solar plant being built north of Kingman.

The 2017 Integrated Resource Plan, filed last week with the ACC, outlines long-term strategies the company that the company will use to meet customers’ energy requirements over the next 15 years.

“As technologies develop and our customers’ energy habits change, we’ll add more reliable and responsive resources to continue providing safe and affordable service here in Arizona,” David Hutchens, president and chief executive officer of UniSource, said in a company statement.

“Renewable resources, energy efficiency measures and new natural gas technologies will play an increasingly important role in our resource planning process.”

The gas and electric utility provider will continue efforts to reduce its reliance on the wholesale energy market by seeking cost-effective, long-term power purchase agreements and low-cost generating resource acquisitions.

A power purchase agreement, known in the industry as PPA, is a contract between a company that generates electricity and one that purchases electricity.

UniSource spokesman Joe Barrios said the company will sign power purchase agreements to buy electricity output from solar arrays over the course of 20 years.

“That’s the usual agreement for community-scale solar systems,” Barrios said Friday from Phoenix. “There are other (power purchase) agreements for natural gas or market purchases during the summer to cover peak periods.”

UniSource plans to add about 175 megawatts (MW) of natural gas resources by 2022. In December 2014, the company acquired a 25 percent share of the natural gas-fired Gila River Power Station Unit 3, which can serve about one-third of its customers’ peak energy needs.

Starting in 2019, UniSource expects to add two small energy storage projects that can boost power output levels more quickly than conventional power plants, which helps to maintain the required balance between energy demand and supply.

Such systems are expected to cost less over the next several years and may provide reliable power during peak times, along with managing power fluctuations associated with renewable resources.