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SRP shuts off power to thousands; customers have technical issues reconnecting

Posted at 10:46 PM, Jul 17, 2019
and last updated 2019-07-18 14:56:01-04

Thousands of Arizonans were without power Wednesday morning and had to wait hours to have it restored.

The utility company Salt River Project said it was because when the Excessive Heat Warning ended and the shutoff moratorium was lifted, they "experienced technical issues with the M-Power app and My Account."

The incident renewed the debate about whether SRP should end summer shutoffs altogether, like fellow utility giant Arizona Public Service.

The Corporation Commission passed an emergency moratorium on utility shutoffs until October 15.

The decision came after reports that a 72-year-old woman in Sun City West died after APS disconnected her power because she was behind on payments.

SRP is not regulated by the Corporation Commission, and their "heat moratorium" only goes into effect with an Excessive Heat Warning, which is more than 110 degrees in Arizona.

It is unknown how many customers were disconnected Wednesday morning. SRP said it estimates more than 10,000 customers were impacted by the technical issues.

Lisa Steen was one of them. She woke up and immediately tried to add money to her M-Power account using her phone app.

"The balance reaches zero and it turns off at 8 o'clock in the morning, and I knew that was going to happen. So at 7:45 I was putting money on there," said Steen.

She kept getting error messages.

"And when I called, it would just ring once and I would get a busy signal. So you can't even get to anybody, like a real person."

Her first thought was about how her animals and sleeping children would handle the rising temperatures.

Steen also checked Twitter and found others complaining about the same disconnection problem and re-connection issues.

"If they know there is an issue, and they know people can't put money on the app, they should at least keep the power on,” said Steen.

"Every Arizonan deserves to have their life protected,” said House Representative Mitzi Epstein, who co-sponsored SB 1542. The bill, which was never passed or even got a hearing last session, would prohibit utility companies from disconnecting service at certain temperatures. It would also create protections for vulnerable customers.

"We want to make sure people are going to be safe,” said Rep. Epstein, who said the bill would still allow utility companies to charge the customers for their power use after the temperatures normalize.

When asked about ending summer shutoffs SRP said in a statement: “While our current policies and procedures provide numerous options to protect our customers, we’ve been closely examining opportunities to enhance existing practices.”

The spokesperson also said, “To help customers with power this summer, SRP is doubling the number of credit advances we’ll provide customers on our prepay program, M-Power, from two to four per month. In addition, we’re doubling the minimum past-due balance for disconnect from $150 to $300 for our credit customers, who will continue to be allowed up to six credit extensions annually.”

Steen and Rep. Epstein believe SRP should voluntarily follow the Corporation Commission’s ruling and put a moratorium on summer shutoffs.

“Right now SRP, APS, and the other power companies - stop shutting people off,” said Rep. Epstein.

The following is the utility company’s full statement regarding Wednesday’s issues:

“SRP experienced a higher than usual call volume today, limiting customers' ability to reach us by phone. We also experienced technical issues with the M-Power app and My Account earlier today. We know that you rely on us to provide reliable service, especially during these hot summer months and we apologize for the significant inconvenience this caused. We have restored service to all channels and are working to understand the issues that occurred today to limit problems such as these from happening again.”