Crews working hard

Tucson Electric Power works around the clock to maintain and improve the systems that help us provide safe and consistently reliable electric service.  The level of our commitment is reflected in the investments we’ve made to maintain and secure a local energy grid that provides industry leading reliability.

TEP consistently ranks in the top quartile for reliability among the nation’s electric utilities, according to an annual survey conducted by the Edison Electric Institute. TEP has increased overall reliability over the past five years by reducing the average length of outages from 90 minutes to just over an hour. In 2015, we led all state utilities in having the lowest average number of annual outages per customer. Its average outage duration also improved, dropping from 80 to 71 minutes.

From 2012-16, TEP invested over $1.3 billion in improvements and upgrades to transmission and distribution systems, equipment, renewable energy resources and smart grid technology. Among TEP’s system improvements include:

  • $468 million of upgrades to transmission and distribution system, including $216 million to improve several 138-kilovolt (kV) transmission lines and build a new 500-kV transmission line.
  • $252 million for distribution system reinforcement and expansion, public improvement projects, substation construction and maintenance, and the replacement of aging infrastructure.
  • $596 million in generation related investments, including $270 million for maintenance and environmental upgrades to power plants and other generating resources. This amount also includes $164 million to purchase a 75 percent share of a highly efficient, natural gas-fired 413-megawatt (MW) power station in Gila Bend.
  • $103 million to expand TEP’s cost-effective community-scale solar energy resources.
  • TEP has installed miles of fiber-optic communications lines on its network to monitor outages and, in some cases, restore power remotely. At some of its older substations, smart sensors known as GridAdvisors are used to detect power interruptions.

Each year, TEP invests more than $10 million on various preventive maintenance measures, including its Critical Circuit Patrol (CPP) program. Veteran crews work full time throughout the year to identify needed repairs and perform maintenance or upgrades.

In the last three years, the CCP team has evaluated, repaired or replaced more than 450 miles of TEP’s most critical power lines. They’ve also replaced nearly 150 power poles and completed more than 200 other repair orders. Additionally, engineers systematically rank more than 400 circuits for priority repairs.

To improve the integrity of power lines during high winds and storms, TEP is gradually replacing wood utility poles with steel ones, which are more costly but also much sturdier with lower long-term maintenance costs.

Finally, TEP remains vigilant in protecting its infrastructure from potential issues by analyzing weather forecasts and reliability data to identify areas of potential future outages.  TEP proactively positions repair crews in areas expected to be hardest hit by severe weather or storms to expedite power restoration.