From the Office of Chairwoman Lea Márquez Peterson
PHOENIX – In the wake of recent, widespread power outages in Texas and California, the Arizona Corporation Commission is hosting a virtual Energy Reliability Summit on Thursday March 18, 2021, at 9:00 a.m. and inviting state elected officials from other offices to attend. The Commission is hosting the virtual summit to ensure Arizona’s grid is reliable during extreme weather conditions, including the summer of 2021. The meeting is being held virtually due to ongoing COVID-19 concerns.
Several states in the Southeast recently experienced an extreme cold weather event. In Texas, the electricity demand from customers massively outstripped supply. To alleviate issues, Texas’s electrical grid operator had to shut off power to millions of Texans in the last two weeks. In addition, for those that were able to stay in power, prices for power soared to nearly 300 times above average.
Less than six months ago, similar power outages occurred in California in August 2020, when historically high temperatures swept the Western United States, which put stress on the grid. According to electric utilities, virtually every power plant in the West that was operable was running at full capacity during that time.
In addition to the worries spawned by recent events in California and Texas, the Western Electricity Coordinating Council (“WECC”) recently published a report identifying resource adequacy concerns for Arizona, including summer 2021.
At the March 18 virtual summit, electric utilities such as Arizona Public Service Company, Salt River Project, Tucson Electric Power, UNS Electric, and Arizona Electric Power Cooperative will convene to discuss the recent events in California and Texas and inform state leaders how they plan to keep the lights on this summer.
The Commission will also hear from the Arizona Power Authority, which receives Arizona’s allocation of power from the Hoover Dam and distributes it to public power companies across the state, including cities and towns, irrigation and electrical districts, and the Central Arizona Water Conservation District.
Additionally, the Commission will host a Question & Answer Session with the Honorable Marc Spitzer, who served on the Arizona Corporation Commission during the California energy crisis in 2000, as well as on the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission during the Texas energy crisis in 2011. Mr. Spitzer is a former Arizona State Senator and has experience serving on energy regulatory bodies at both the state and federal levels.
“Grid reliability is a matter of statewide concern,” said Chairwoman Márquez Peterson. “To successfully secure Arizona’s energy future, a collaborative approach is needed among all stakeholders and elected officials. We want to ensure that all energy reliability concerns have been addressed. The Arizona Corporation Commission will do its part to assure Arizonans that they will not have to experience what they witnessed in California and Texas, this summer.”
“Recent events demonstrated the importance of maintaining reliable electricity services to avoid the challenges seen in California and Texas,” said Commissioner Justin Olson. “The Commission’s Reliability Summit will provide an important venue to address the reliability of Arizona’s critical energy resources.”
“This summit is about learning from the mistakes of others, so Arizona doesn’t replicate the same catastrophe,” said Commissioner Anna Tovar. “I want to know why the vast majority of generation outages in Texas were from conventional technology. I want to know why the Texas companies didn’t invest in weatherization. And I want to know if Arizona’s interconnection with other grid systems will help us avoid a Texas situation in the future. Our summers are getting hotter. That means more demand on our grid at a time when reliable electricity is most important. We need to make sure Arizona is ready for it.”
“I take very seriously the Arizona Constitution’s requirement that Commissioners shall preserve the health and safety of the patrons (customers) of Arizona’s regulated utilities, and reliability of the power grid—keeping the lights on—is integral to that requirement,” said Commissioner Jim O’Connor.
The Arizona Corporation Commission held an emergency meeting regarding the California blackouts on August 21, 2020.
The Arizona Corporation Commission held an emergency meeting regarding the Texas blackouts on February 18, 2021.
A copy of the public notice and agenda for the Energy Reliability Summit can be found here.