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.
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