Despite drought conditions that could result in a higher than normal amount of wildfires this summer, APS is well-positioned to meet customer demand, company officials told the Arizona Corporation Commission.
This message was part of APS's annual summer preparedness briefing to the ACC. The presentation included this summer's peak demand forecast, an inventory of available resources to serve that demand, a summary of APS's system improvements, and the steps the company has taken to prepare for wildfires and other potential emergencies.
'With nearly 20,000 miles of overhead power lines around the state, the potential threat of wildfires to our system is very real to us,' said Pat Dinkel, Vice President, Transmission & Distribution Operations for APS. 'We're thinking about wildfires, summer storms and high demand at all times, planning year-round and continually strengthening our system so that our customers can feel confident they'll be able to keep cool during the hottest days.'
According to the National Interagency Fire Center, conditions caused by a dry winter are expected to result in a rapid increase in wildland fire potential in eastern Arizona beginning in May. Above-normal fire risk is expected for much of the Southwest United States in June and July, the agency said.
APS prepares for the challenges of wildfire season by training its employees to work in close coordination with fire-fighting organizations as the company often is asked to de-energize power lines so fire personnel can work safely within APS rights-of-way. Under normal operating conditions, APS customers should not expect to experience an impact to their service as a result of the company having to temporarily de-energize a major transmission line.
'While we are well-prepared to mitigate the challenges of wildfires to our grid, service interruptions can occur for a variety of reasons - high winds, lightning and other factors,' Dinkel said. 'When outages do occur, our number-one priority is safely getting the lights back on and air conditioners running while staying in communication with our customers.'
APS personnel are available 24 hours a day to assist customers and coordinate restoration efforts. In the event of large-scale customer outages, the company utilizes its Twitter feed, @apsFYI, to provide real-time updates to its customers and other key audiences. This summer, APS has forecast a peak of 6,992 megawatts (MW), compared with the 2013 summer peak of 6,927 MW, which occurred on July 8, when the Phoenix high temperature reached 113 degrees. Between its existing generation and its power-supply contracts, APS has 9,186 MW of resources available to help meet summer demand.
The all-time APS system peak of 7,236 MW was set on July 21, 2006. The summer peak - the 15-minute period when APS customers require the most energy - typically occurs in July or August between 5 and 6 p.m.
Last year, APS successfully met peak demand while providing its nearly 1.2 million customers with a level of service reliability that compares favorably with the best performers in the electric utility industry. In 2013, the typical APS customer experienced 0.78 power outages compared to a national industry median of 1.03 interruptions. Also, the typical APS customer experienced 71 minutes of interrupted service in 2013, compared with an industry median of 111 minutes. Both marks place APS within the top quartile of the nation's investor-owned electric utilities.
The state's other major electric utilities also made presentations to the ACC.
APS, Arizona's largest and longest-serving electricity utility, serves nearly 1.2 million customers in 11 of the state's 15 counties. With headquarters in Phoenix, APS is the principal subsidiary of Pinnacle West Capital Corp. (NYSE: PNW)