Apr 26, 2024 - News

Arizona has one of nation's most reliable electrical grids

Share of major power outages attributed to extreme weather
Data: Climate Central via U.S. Department of Energy; Note: Major power outages affect at least 50k customers or interrupt service of 300 megawatts or more; Outage events can cross state lines; Map: Kavya Beheraj/Axios

Arizona experienced only six power outages caused by extreme weather between 2000 and 2023, well below the national average, a new report from nonprofit research and communications group Climate Central found.

Why it matters: A resilient electrical grid — which keeps our air conditioners working — can be a matter of life and death during the summer.

Stunning stat: Arizona saw no major power outages during last year's historic heat wave, despite record electricity use.

Zoom in: While extreme heat spikes electricity demand, it rarely damages utility infrastructure the way storms can, which gives Arizona a leg up when it comes to resiliency, Common Sense Institute Arizona policy and research director Glenn Farley tells Axios Phoenix.

  • Additionally, Arizona relies less on renewable energy — wind and solar power — than many other states.
  • Those sources can only be produced at full capacity during peak weather conditions, whereas natural gas and nuclear power is generated almost constantly, Farley said.

By the numbers: About 30% of Arizona's 19 major power outages since 2000 were caused by weather, per Climate Central.

  • A "major" outage is defined as one that impacts at least 50,000 homes or businesses, or that cuts service of at least 300 megawatts.

Zoom out: Arizona is an outlier. Extreme weather accounted for about 80% of all major U.S. power outages from 2000 to 2023.

  • The majority of weather-related outages are due to severe weather like major thunderstorms, followed by winter weather, tropical storms and hurricanes.

The intrigue: APS and the Valley's other major utility Salt River Project plan to rely mostly on clean energy by 2050.

  • Farley said the utilities should ensure contingency energy sources — if not from natural gas, then with battery technology or by importing from other states — or expect more outages.

What we're watching: As Phoenix keeps growing and climate change raises the frequency and severity of heat waves and other extreme weather events, our electrical grid will continue to be tested.

  • APS predicts energy use in the state will increase 40% over the next seven years and the grid will need to double in size in the next 15 years to maintain its current output.

Get more local stories in your inbox with Axios Phoenix.


Support local journalism by becoming a member.

Learn more

More Phoenix stories


Get a free daily digest of the most important news in your backyard with Axios Phoenix.


Support local journalism by becoming a member.

Learn more