Arizona’s top regulator, Lea Márquez Peterson, has made much of the potential for power disruptions in her state due to California’s plan to prioritize power passing through its infrastructure for local needs (see CEM No. 1648 [6]). But utilities report that storms have so far been the main culprit in electric utility service disruptions in Arizona and throughout the Southwest this summer.

Arizona Public Service spokeswoman Jill Hanks said the utility has had not had any power shortages so far this season, but its infrastructure, including wooden poles, has been affected by wildfires as well as “severe monsoon storms” that have impacted service in various areas of its territory. Redundancies in transmission and distribution have prevented wildfire damage from affecting service, Hanks said in an email to California Energy Markets.

A storm toppled 14 power poles along a Phoenix street the night of July 10, Hanks said. APS rerouted power, restoring service to about half of the 900 affected customers within an hour. Crews then replaced the broken poles, incrementally restoring power to the remainder throughout the day on July 11 and July 12. Another storm late on July 12 knocked down 15 poles in an area of Scottsdale. APS was able to reroute power in that instance and had restored service to all affected within three hours, Hanks said.

Monsoon storms with heavy lightning rolled through various parts of Arizona, including the Phoenix metro area and Flagstaff causing outages on July 14, Hanks said.

APS, which serves 11 of the state’s 15 counties instituted demand-response events on June 16 and 17 and July 9 and 10 for both commercial and residential customers participating in the utility’s opt-in programs. The utility has not issued specific conservation requests but is encouraging customers to reduce energy use from 3:00 p.m. to 8:00 p.m. this summer.

At the request of fire officials APS recently deenergized a line serving homes that had been evacuated due to the Telegraph Fire in eastern Arizona, Hanks said.

Tucson Electric Power, Arizona’s third-largest utility has issued general appeals to customers this summer asking them to conserve power from 3:00 p.m. to 7:00 p.m. Neither TEP nor Salt River Project, which serves about 1.1 million customers in the greater Phoenix area, have yet made specific conservation requests. Both utilities have been monitoring wildfires and storms in the state, but neither has encountered damage that would threaten a power outage or require deenergizing lines to prevent fires spokespeople confirmed.

NV Energy, the investor-owned utility serving most of Nevada through subsidiaries Nevada Power and Sierra Pacific Power on July 10 and 11 asked customers via social media and in a news release to conserve power between 6:00 p.m. and 9:00 p.m. “to help offset energy supply issues caused by record-breaking heat and wildfires affecting regional transmission lines.”

The company on July 13 tweeted that customer response and its smart thermostat program reduced demand by approximately 300 MW during the conservation request. Temperatures in Las Vegas reached 115 degrees Fahrenheit over the weekend, and a high of 106 degrees Fahrenheit was recorded July 10 in Reno.

Local media reported thunderstorm-related outages in the Las Vegas area affected more than 7,600 customers during the evening of July 12. Las Vegas Fire and Rescue tweeted that a tree had fallen into power lines that night. Power was restored to most customers by 5:00 a.m. July 13 according to local reports.

NV Energy in June implemented a Public Safety Outage Management event to prevent fire ignition in the Mt. Charleston area of Las Vegas, spokeswoman Jennifer Schuricht said in an email.

Xcel-Energy Colorado experienced storm related outages in the Fort Collins area in mid-June, but has had no other weather- or fire-related impacts to its service since then spokeswoman Michelle Aguayo confirmed in a phone call.

El Paso Electric, which serves customers in the El Paso, Texas and Las Cruces, New Mexico area, reported scattered outages July 11 due to a “torrential storm” and winds as high as 70 miles per hour throughout its service territory. The outages affected about 17,000 customers at their peak, the utility said on Twitter. Most service had been restored by 8:30 a.m. July 12.

Public Service Company of New Mexico has not made conservation requests of its customers so far this summer despite recently losing capacity at the San Juan Generating Station due to a cooling tower collapse at Unit 1, which it co-owns with TEP, (see CEM No. 1649 [15]).

Lightning caused scattered outages in PNM’s service area over the last few weeks according to the company’s Twitter feed, and the utility on July 7 replaced a utility pole in Albuquerque as part of a pole audit, causing minimal disruptions to a few hundred customers.

On June 26, a hot-air balloon collided with power lines over a major Albuquerque street, fatally injuring all five passengers on board and causing an approximately 90-minute service disruption, PNM spokesman Ray Sandoval confirmed in an email. 

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Associate Editor - California Energy Markets

Abigail Sawyer grew up in northwestern New Mexico near two massive coal-fired power plants. She spent many hours gazing out the car window at transmission lines on family road trips across the Southwest and now reports on the region from San Francisco.