As a provider of a critical service at a critical time, UniSource has remained vigilant during the coronavirus pandemic.
We adapted our work methods to protect our employees and the communities we serve while preparing our local energy grid for soaring temperatures and increased summer energy demands in our electric service areas.
System upgrades were prioritized in Mohave and Santa Cruz counties to ensure the most critical projects were completed in time to serve customers during hot summer weather. These improvements were designed to strengthen UniSource’s electric system and help reduce the frequency and duration of power outages.
For example, crews recently completed an approximately $5 million upgrade of the Havasu Substation in Lake Havasu City, which included the replacement of all breakers and relays in the substation and installation of new communications equipment. UniSource also recently invested about $3.5 million in the Franconia Substation, located about halfway between Kingman and Lake Havasu City, where crews installed a new 69 kilovolt (kV) transformer, breakers and switchgear.
In Nogales, UniSource completed a $2 million upgrade of the Valencia Substation, including a new 138 kV transformer and other improvements.
This year’s summer preparations also included planning for possible COVID-19 impacts. UniSource is ready to operate our energy grid with a reduced workforce, if necessary, and we’re working with our neighboring utilities and reliability authorities to ensure reliable grid operations.
“We’ve worked very hard to continue providing great service to our customers while protecting our employees and the public by limiting the risk of disease transmission,” said Susan Gray, President and Chief Operating Officer. “We’ve had to get creative, coming up with new ways of being productive while staying safe and ensuring we’re well-positioned as we approach summer.”
To limit unnecessary risks of exposure, employees are now wearing face coverings, following social distancing guidelines, cleaning tools and equipment regularly, and limiting vehicle sharing. Crews are split into smaller teams, work schedules are more varied and daily safety briefings are held in more locations with smaller groups than usual.
More than half of our employees have been working from home, including some members of UniSource’s Customer Care team. Even UniSource’s Energy Programs team – which is most often found distributing shade trees, lightbulbs and energy kits at large community events –has refocused to highlight rebates and discounts that help customers save money right away.
“We know that people have lost their jobs and money is tight,” said Francisco Castro, Manager of Energy Programs. “However, those who do need to replace a broken water heater or air conditioning (AC) system should be aware of our incentives to reduce their out-of-pocket costs.”
Requests for residential AC rebates through UniSource’s Efficient Home Program have actually increased, Castro said. “Customers with old AC units are being proactive. They’re looking ahead to the hot summer months and wanting to replace theirs.”