Expanding clean energy. Promoting energy conservation. Protecting the desert habitat. Practicing sustainability. As we observe Earth Day on April 22, here are four meaningful ways that TEP is doing our part to protect our planet and community.
“Environmental stewardship is a crucial part of our strategy going forward. It ties directly to one of our key corporate values: We drive sustainability,” said Erik Bakken, Vice President of Systems Operations and Energy Resources.
Building a cleaner, greener grid
We’re committed to a cleaner energy future. Our latest Integrated Resource Plan outlines a bold approach for the rapid expansion of our renewable resources with the goal of 70 percent clean energy and 80 percent carbon reduction by 2035. Our 250-megawatt (MW) Oso Grande Wind Project in Roswell, New Mexico will help us achieve this, generating enough power each year to serve the annual electric needs of nearly 100,000 homes. (See accompanying story)
Meanwhile, we are increasing our battery energy storage systems to meet high energy demand when the sun isn’t shining and the wind isn’t blowing. Our new Wilmot Energy Center in Tucson will provide 30 MW of battery energy storage along with100 MW of solar generating capacity. In all, we expect to have more than 1,400 MW of stored energy by 2035.
Electric vehicles also will play a big role in a cleaner energy future. Not only do EVs emit zero tailpipe emissions, but their owners enjoy significant long-term savings in fuel, repair and maintenance costs.
To support greater use of EVs, TEP offers residential customers attractive rebates of up to $500 on the purchase and installation of a qualified home EV charger as well as special “super off-peak” rates for EV owners when they charge their vehicles overnight. And our Smart EV Charging program offers rebates along with technical support and project guidance to help businesses, multi-family housing complexes and nonprofit groups install EV charging stations at their locations.
Already we’re seeing more EVs on the road with businesses and local governments eager to transition their fleets to EVs. We’re working closely with the City of Tucson, Pima County and Sun Tran – just to name a few – to provide technical support and the electrical infrastructure to support EV chargers at several of their locations.
Encouraging energy savings
“A big part of our energy strategy includes helping customers save energy, which saves them money, but also benefits our environment,” said Ted Burhans, Director of Emerging Technologies, Innovation and Renewables. “The less energy we use, the less power we need to generate, keeping our rates affordable and reducing our carbon emissions.”
One of our most popular energy efficiency programs is Trees for You. Since 1992, TEP customers have planted nearly 140,000 discounted shade trees throughout our community to reduce their summer cooling costs.
A healthy tree canopy makes our community more livable by reducing the heat island effect. Trees also clean the air, release oxygen and provide habitat for wildlife.
All of TEP’s energy efficiency programs are designed to help our customers use energy wisely. Some of these programs include rebates on smart thermostats, ENERGY STAR® pool pumps and lighting, and high efficiency heating and cooling systems.
Over the past two decades, our programs have resulted in cumulative lifetime savings of more than 15.4 million tons of CO2 emissions, 7,390 million gallons of water and 16.7 million megawatt hours of electricity.
Because saving energy often requires awareness and behavioral changes, we’re teaching adults and youth how to conserve. Our Home Energizer Workshop, Bright Students and Renewable Students programs are all available on-demand on our website.
Helping nature survive and thrive
Our environmental stewardship extends beyond responsible power generation to thoughtful land management and the protection of wildlife and their desert habitat.
Working with biologists from the University of Arizona, TEP protects birds of prey – hawks, eagles, owls and ravens – from electrical hazards near our equipment. Through our Raptor Protection program, we install protective devices on lines and poles where raptors are known to perch and nest.
“We take great satisfaction in helping to protect these magnificent creatures across the entire region,” said Larry Weigel, part of the team that co-manages TEP’s Raptor Protection program. “I’m so proud of the continued support for this program and the positive impact we’re able to have in protecting our area’s wildlife.”
In partnership with the wildlife conservation group, Wild at Heart, we help build and install artificial underground nests for burrowing owls, a species of concern. In addition to funding these efforts, we loan the necessary trenching equipment and crews and offer employee volunteers to help save this little owl, whose habitat is shrinking due to urban development.
To protect our desert, we support buffelgrass removal efforts to eradicate this highly-invasive and flammable grass that poses a wildfire hazard and chokes out indigenous vegetation and cactus. We also rescue and relocate cactus in areas where we’re planning to build transmission lines and substations, and we recycle our tree trimmings into nutrient-rich mulch for use by Civano Nursery in growing trees and shrubs.
For TEP, sustainability is a way of doing business. Our employees organized an employee-led “green team” to continue to advance conservation and responsible energy use at work, at home and in our community.
Even with the challenges presented by the pandemic, UNS Employees Creating Opportunities for Sustainability (ECOS) hosted virtual learning sessions on waste reduction and recycling, water efficiency, the benefits of shopping locally and improving indoor air quality.
UNS ECOS also shares monthly sustainability tips in our employee newsletter, and has formed partnerships with Mrs. Green’s World and the University of Arizona’s Eller College of Management to identify sustainability initiatives within our company.
“It’s been a great experience to engage with employees on their ideas and provide a forum for them to explore sustainability and what it means to them,” said Alyssa Gutierrez, UNS ECOS Steering Committee Chairperson. “We’ve had a considerable amount of participation and enthusiasm and I can’t wait to see how the team will continue to engage in corporate initiatives that positively impact our company and communities.”