The future of the Valley’s energy is uncertain for the summers after this year, according to feedback from some of the state’s largest electricity providers.
Supply chain issues, hot temperatures and drought conditions all could contribute to a less stable power supply in the Valley as officials seek answers to determine how to meet peak demand in the summers beyond of this year.
“All companies stated that while they are well positioned to handle demand in 2022, the future beyond this summer is not as certain,” a press release from the Arizona Corporation Commission stated.
According to the ACC, utility challenges range from supply chain issues and railroad delays to a lack of new power plant construction in the West as well as issues in the solar industry not being able to get new plants online. In addition, a two-decade drought has left reservoirs along the Colorado River at low levels that could put an impact on hydroelectric generation.
Hoover Dam, which contains Lake Mead on the Arizona-Nevada border, has a capacity of 2,080 megawatts of power while Glen Canyon Dam, which contains Lake Powell in northern Arizona, has a capacity of 1,320 megawatts, according to the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation. One megawatt of capacity is enough to power between 400 and 900 homes annually, though not all of the dams’ power goes to Arizona customers.
Last month, the state’s largest electricity providers met with the ACC as part of its annual summer preparedness meeting, according to the press release.
The meeting was geared to show regulators the providers’ plans to ensure peak demand can be met during the hot summer months.
Arizona Public Service Co., Tucson Electric Power Co., UNS Electric Inc., Salt River Project, and Arizona Electric Power Cooperative all made presentations at the meeting in late April.
There is good news for this summer. All utilities said they have “sufficient capacity and contingencies in place” to meet the projected peak demand. All have plans prepared “should the summer be hotter than anticipated and are well prepared to handle potential emergencies” due to weather conditions.
Officials with APS, the largest utility in Arizona and serves more than 1.3 million customers in 11 of Arizona’s 15 counties, said last year there were a record six consecutive days at or above 115 degrees and there were 104 days at or above 100 degrees.
There were also 23 days of rainfall during the monsoon season, which typically runs from mid June to September, said Kent Walter, resource management and analysis and engagement at APS.
“The Southwest region is incredibly tight as well as it relates to capacity resources in particular over the evening hours including emergency events being declared in both Nevada and California during that time frame,” Walter told the ACC last month.
Walter told the group APS’s customer partnerships, such as the voluntary energy conservation program, helped lead to a successful summer.
The program helps the utility “take the load off the grid” by enrolling residential customers in the conservation program where customers can receive bill credits and other incentives by having their thermostats raised a couple of degrees during “certain moments of the day” when summer energy use is high.
Officials are examining other options to increase stability during the summer months, Walter said. APS, which serves much of the West Valley, participates in the energy market to find reliable energy resources.
“Commissioner (Sandra) Kennedy, you asked about wholesale markets and whether or not that would help us meet summer capacity needs,” Walter said. “I think the answer is it depends. It depends on the structure of the market and what the rules are around resourced advocacy.”
In one presentation slide, Walter showed the 2022 peak demand numbers plus the reserve energy. He said APS has 1,156 megawatts in its reserve margin.
APS officials said they have peak demand of 9,037 megawatts of power on hand. In 2021, actual peak demand for APS hit 7,580 megawatts. In 2020, it hi 7,660 megawatts.
“The reserve margin is absolutely essential and a critical part to maintain customer reliability in times of challenged resource reliability or extreme weather conditions.”
Yessica del Rincon, an APS spokeswoman, would not comment on the possibility of blackouts in the future.
“Keeping the lights on for our customers is our responsibility, and we plan for our customers’ energy needs years in advance,” del Rincon said. “APS is serving its customers with sufficient resources to meet customer needs reliably through the summer. Additionally, we are continuing to invest in our system to add more clean energy and storage resources to our power supply to meet customer needs well into the future.”
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