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APS, SRP asking customers to conserve energy in homes

Power lines, electricity
Salt Fire power lines
Posted at 3:19 PM, Aug 18, 2020
and last updated 2020-08-20 01:36:01-04

PHOENIX — APS and SRP are both now asking customers to conserve energy Wednesday afternoon and evening.

On Wednesday both companies cited excessive heat as the reason for the request, while SRP also added that one of their major transmitters was out of service for several hours because of the Salt wildfire burning in the Tonto National Forest.

"The balance of SRP’s system is currently operating normally, however, the loss of this transmission line could result in SRP not having sufficient power to meet high customer demand during record-hot temperatures," SRP said in a statement Wednesday. "SRP is attempting to secure additional energy capacity to replace the impacted transmission line, however high demand for energy across the western U.S. has resulted in limited available supplies."

SRP has since said that the transmitter is back in service, but additional lines are in the fire area and are still in danger.

For the second day in a row Wednesday, APS also asked customers to conserve energy after excessive heat forced rolling blackouts for thousands of people across California Friday and Saturday.

"Like yesterday, today (Wednesday, Aug. 19), APS is asking customers to conserve energy due to extreme temperatures driving up energy demand throughout the region and straining power supplies. This is a step APS is taking out of an abundance of caution in how we manage the grid, balance supplies and prepare for contingencies - it is not due to any shortages we expect in meeting our customers' needs," APS said in a statement Tuesday.

APS spokesperson Jenna Rowell said that due to emergency declarations in nearby states, like California and New Mexico, they have been obligated to sell power.

"There is an obligation between the utilities, that if any of them declare in emergency situation and another utility has the ability to help them out, without sacrificing their own service. You are obligated to do that...So there have been some power sales over the past couple of days." said Jenna Rowell, a spokesperson for APS.

"But the call to conserve is really about making sure our own service customers have that back up cushion in case something unforeseen occurs," she continued.

Rowell was also quick to point out that "any money that is made off that sale will go directly to customers on their bills, through a line item called their power supply adjustment."

Already, Rowell says the conservation request has made an impact. "We put out this call to conserve and our customers responded," she said. "We know it’s an inconvenience, but it did make a big difference for the whole region."

APS is asking customers to conserve energy in the following ways Wednesday until 8 p.m. and provided the following recommendations:

  • Raise thermostat settings to no lower than 80 degrees.
  • Turn off extra lights and avoid use of discretionary major appliances such as clothes washers, dryers and dishwashers.
  • Avoid operation of pool pumps.

SRP also put out similar requests, asking customers to conserve energy until 9 p.m. Wednesday:

  • Turn up air conditioning thermostats to warmer temperatures.
  • Close window shades, blinds, or drapes to block the sunlight during the hottest part of the day.
  • Use microwaves or outdoor grills for cooking instead of ovens or stoves.
  • Delay using appliances and equipment, such as pool pumps, washers, dryers, and dishwashers until the evening.

Tuesday's request from APS also came just hours after Arizona Corporation Commission Chairman Bob Burns sent a letter to electric utilities under the commission's umbrella, like APS, to see if they are in good shape or anticipate any problems given what had occurred in California. He requested the companies respond by noon Friday.

"The whole plan is to take a look at the system early in the Summer," Burns said. "Early May we look at the system, make sure we're ready and able to serve the public throughout the entire heat cycle."

Burns told ABC15 the Summer Preparedness workshop with utilities took place in May and the regulated utilities reported they were well equipped to meet the anticipated peaks of the Summer. Tuesday's letter to the electric companies seeks to see if they are still able to "adequately, safely and reliably" serve customers through the heatwave, or if what happened in California could take place here.

"With the activities that are occurring over in California we just want to double check," Burns said.

An APS representative told ABC15 they have adequate supply and reserve and don't anticipate any problems.

However, the rolling blackouts in California also caught the attention of Commissioner Lea Marquez Peterson. She is calling on the chairman to hold an emergency meeting.

"The risk to Arizonans and the fact that energy could be interrupted, that we had some kind of rolling blackout like California would have, would be really a public health issue," Peterson said. "It could be life and death in some cases for vulnerable populations."

Chairman Burns told ABC15 he feels there isn't a need for an emergency meeting, yet.

"We need to hear from the utilities and make sure everything is fine," Burns said. "If it isn't, then we may go that route."

This historic summer heat can also be deadly "Especially for populations that may be living on the street like homeless populations," said Bruce Liggett, Maricopa County's Director of Human Services.

Already this year Maricopa County has had 25 heat-associated deaths. Another 222 deaths are "under investigation," which is 100 more than at the same time in 2018.

"High heat at night is particularly damaging to people physically," said Liggett, who helps oversee the county's program providing shelter for transient men and women at night. "Last night 209 homeless individuals were indoors during the excessive heat."