How power companies keep AC on while temperatures sizzle to record highs

Posted at 9:48 PM, Jun 20, 2017
and last updated 2017-06-21 11:59:26-04

Sweltering temperatures across the region sent power usage to all-time record highs on Tuesday.

APS reported the highest customer power usage ever, breaking the previous record set back in 2006. SRP also reported customers using power at a level never before been seen as temperatures also soared near all-time record highs.

All that juice flowing to customers caused a few equipment failures, which disrupted the flow of power to some customers. A rapid response linemen team with APS was sent to a blown transformer near Bethany Home Road and Grand Avenue on Tuesday evening.

Linemen says it's a common problem when it gets this hot. 

"The load on the system goes up, everybody is inside with their A/Cs and that puts a lot of strain on the system around Arizona," said Corey Lundberg, a crew foreman with APS.

People living in the Flamingo Mobile Home Park say the troubled transformer has been making their power flicker since Monday. 

"It's been so hot lately, when the power goes out for an hour, two hours, that long," said Jose Armenta, who lives at the mobile home park. 

APS says the transformer literally popped its top and had to be replaced. APS says crews prepare for these types of emergency repairs all year long.

They also say this type of heat spell is considered the Super Bowl for the electric utility.

"This is the mission control, what we call our trading floor at APS," said Brad Albert, resource manager for APS.

ABC15 was given a look at how APS keeps the power flowing even in near-record temperatures at the lowest possible prices.

APS uses a stock market style approach to buying power. APS has a floor at their headquarters filled with computers, monitors and is staffed 24 hours a day seven days a week. It's like a virtual grocery store and the shelves are stocked with different power products with different prices: Hydroelectric power from Hoover Dam, or natural gas power plants in New Mexico, for example.

The prices and products can change by the minute, so APS staff shop around for the lowest prices and always buy extra, just in case something goes wrong. APS estimates this power buying method saves their customers between $30-$40 million each year.