Arizona: Governor warns of rolling blackout risk : LUSENET : Grassroots Information Coordination Center (GICC) : One Thread

Headine: State blackouts possible; Utilities confirm prospect brought up by Hull

Source: The Arizona Republic, 31 May 2001


Arizona faces the possibility of rolling, 20-minute blackouts this summer, Gov. Jane Hull said Wednesday.

Her comment during a news conference in Tempe surprised officials for Arizona Public Service Co., one of the state's main utility companies. But a spokesman for another large utility, the Salt River Project, confirmed that "rotating blackouts" of up to 20 minutes are possible, given SRP's shrinking ability to generate more electricity in a pinch.

Hull spoke to reporters during a tour of the APS solar power center in Tempe, where she and Christie Whitman, administrator of the federal Environmental Protection Agency, touted the Bush administration's energy plan.

Hull said utility executives have assured her that Arizona should have enough power to get through this summer but that blackouts are a possibility. Her spokeswoman later said the governor didn't complete her thought.

Hull meant that Arizona should have enough power if there aren't any glitches, such as unseasonably hot weather or downed transmission lines, press secretary Francie Noyes said.

The governor's earlier pronouncement was news to APS officials. "We had never heard that come from her as a political official nor from us as a utility," said Will Diaz, an APS spokesman. "When I heard that myself, it was kind of a surprise."

But SRP and Tucson Electric Power officials both acknowledged the possibility of brief blackouts if there are unexpected events.

SRP spokesman Scott Harelson said, "We do have enough energy for our customers, and we don't anticipate any blackouts. But the asterisk this year is our reserve capacity."

Several years ago, that capacity was about 20 percent of total supply. Now it's down to 8 percent, Harelson said.

He said SRP has estimated that rotating blackouts, if necessary, would last up to 20 minutes, compared with the average 90-minute California blackout. The shorter time is necessary because of the extreme heat in the Valley. SRP officials figure that a house wouldn't heat up too badly if it had a 20-minute interruption in cooling.

TEP, like the other utilities, expects to weather the summer well. But it would be imprudent not to prepare customers for the possibility of blackouts, spokeswoman Wendy Erica Werden said. Last summer, for example, New Mexico wildfires knocked out two TEP transmission lines, causing 30-minute blackouts in Tucson.

Power executives said utilities have unscheduled blackouts all the time, for reasons ranging from storms to a car slamming into a power pole to an animal crawling into a transformer. But those blackouts are unexpected and don't give the utility time to prepare for an outage.

-- Andre Weltman (, May 31, 2001

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