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Arizona Republic: Extreme heat, rising demand: Arizona utilities warn of blackouts in summers ahead

Posted by Ryan Randazzo on Apr 29, 2022

Arizona Republic examined utilities' concerns over their power supply, quoting AEE's Shelby Stults on how increasing energy efficiency programs and joining a western RTO can help. Read snippets below and the full article here.

A rapidly growing state, increasing numbers of days with extreme heat, supply-chain disruptions and shut-down power plants all threaten to cause blackouts in the Southwest in coming years.

That's the message Arizona Public Service Co., Tucson Electric Power and Salt River Project officials gave regulators this week during a normally routine meeting about the summer power supply...

Demand for electricity is growing while supply is not.

This summer, Arizona utilities say they have just enough power to meet the expected demand. But should a large power plant go offline, or a wildfire take out a key transmission line, or some other emergency occur, there's essentially nowhere they can turn for backup power...

Shelby Stults, a principal at Advanced Energy Economy, a national business association that advocates for clean energy, said Arizona utilities have options despite all the challenges they cite regarding power supply.

The first could be to expand the wholesale energy markets in the West, she said, citing a recent study funded by the U.S. Department of Energy.

Arizona utilities already buy energy on the wholesale market, but Stults said the entire West would benefit from broader trading to make more power sources available when utilities need extra capacity.

With more resources available to more utilities, power plants would be put to more efficient use and the overall cost to keep every customer in the region well supplied would be reduced, the study suggests.

"If a regional heat wave is causing a peak in demand, to source power from outside that regional heat wave could lead to cost savings," she said. "Ultimately the region as a whole would benefit from development of large widespread western regional transmission organization."

The second thing utilities could do is to increase their use of energy efficiency projects and "demand response" programs, where customers are asked or even paid to cut power use during the hottest hours of the hottest days, she said.

Arizona utilities already use such programs, including some that allow utilities to adjust thermostats for customers who opt into such a program, or briefly reduce power at large industrial facilities. Stults said there's more they could be doing.

"Thinking through more creative ways they can invest in curbing peak demand at critical times, as opposed to just immediately investing in capital intensive new generation sources, could go a long way to meet those concerns," Stults said.

Read the full article here.

Topics: Utility, Wholesale Markets, AEE In The News, Energy Efficiency, Arizona, Shelby Stults