The “Grand Canyon” State Abandons Coal

State Economy

The population of the “Grand Canyon State,” Arizona is approximately 7.52 million people[1]. Arizona is the 14th most populated state in the United States.

In 2020, Arizona’s economy was ranked 19th in the United States in gross domestic product (GDP)[2]. The state’s economy is dependent on the high-tech manufacturing, transportation, mining, agriculture, and tourism industries[3].

Environment Policies

In 2006, Arizona enacted a mandatory renewable energy standard, which requires all utilities to sell 15% of their electricity from renewable sources by 2025[4].

In May 2021, Arizona utilities[5] used natural gas (48.6 %), nuclear energy (23.6 %), renewable energy (16.6 %), and coal (11.2 %) to generate electricity. Solar and hydropower are the primary sources of renewable energy to generate electricity in Arizona.

In May 2021, the average cost of residential electricity in Arizona was 13.05 ¢ per kWh, compared to the national average of 13.71 ¢ per kWh.

Recent renewable energy developments in Arizona include:

  • 477 MW Wind Project – Utah Renewable energy company, S-Power is continuing work on the Chevelon Butte Wind project at a site approximately 100 miles northeast of the state capital, Phoenix.
  • 350 MW Wind Project – In December 2020, American electric utility, NextEra Energy commissioned the White Hills Wind Farm at a site approximately 200 miles northwest of Phoenix.
  • 260 MW Energy Storage Project – In August 2021, NextEra Energy announced plans to build the Sonoran Energy Center at a site approximately 25 miles west of Phoenix.
  • 100 MW Solar + 30 MW Energy Storage Project – In May 2021, NextEra commissioned the Wilmot Energy Center at a site approximately 120 miles southeast of Phoenix.
  • 100 MW Solar Project – In December 2020, Arizona electric utility, Salt River Project commissioned the East Line Solar project at a site approximately 50 miles southeast of Phoenix.
  • 100 MW Solar Project – In December 2020, Salt River Project commissioned the Saint Solar project at a site approximately 15 miles east of Phoenix.


Coal was first mined over 700 years ago in what is now the state of Arizona by the Native Americans[6]. Initially, coal was used for firing pottery and heating fuel.

Arizona’s last coal mine, Black Mesa ceased operations in 2019. The coal that fuels Arizona’s coal-fired power plants is transported by rail primarily from New Mexico and Wyoming.

In 2010, 41.8% of Arizona’s electricity was generated from coal-fueled power plants[7]. In February 2021, 11.2 % of Arizona’s electricity was generated from coal. Why the decrease?

  1. Economics The cost to generate power from wind, solar, and hydropower is significantly cheaper than coal. The cost to generate power from coal-fired plants is over twice the cost of wind or solar.
  2. EnvironmentCoal ash, the product of coal burned in a power plant contains arsenic, mercury, and lead; which are toxic. In 2019, coal ash was reported to have contaminated the ground water around 241 coal-fired plants in America[8].
  3. Climate Change Coal generates 40% to 48% more greenhouse gases than natural gas.

In 2020, Arizona Public Service, the state’s largest electric utility announced it plans to deliver 100% carbon-free electricity by 2050. The utility’s plan includes eliminating all coal-fired power plants by 2031.

Coal mining has been an integral part of Arizona’s economy for hundreds of years. Today, the “Grand Canyon” State is abandoning coal and turning to clean, low-cost renewable energy.

Jack Kerfoot

Website – “Our Energy Conundrum”

[1] Arizona Population 2021, World Population Review

[2] U.S. Department of Commerce, Bureau of Economic Analysis

[3] Biggest Industries in Arizona  – World Atlas

[4] National Conference of State Legislators – State Renewable Portfolio Standards and Goals, January 4, 2021

[5] U.S. Energy Information Agency – Arizona State Profile and Energy Estimates,

[6]Arizona Daily Star, State’s History of Coal Mining Goes Back At Least 700 Years by William Ascarza, July 2, 2014

[7] U.S. Energy Information Agency, Arizona Electric Power Consumption Estimates 1960 – 2018

[8] Reuters, “Coal Ash Contaminates Groundwater Near Most U.S. Coal Plants: Study” by Valerie Volcovici, March 3, 2019

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