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Keeping the lights on in Boulder City

Boulder City has a rich history as the town that built Hoover Dam. Hoover Dam is known as one of the Seven Wonders of the Engineering World and continues to generate electricity for over one million homes. While most of the homes are located outside of Boulder City, residents continue to enjoy reliable and affordable renewable hydropower energy. That energy needs a reliable path to deliver the power to the end user.

As society has advanced, so have our power needs and our reliance and expectation on continuous dependable electricity. We expect the light switch in our homes to work when we switch it on, and when it doesn’t, we can become frustrated and angry. Some of us depend more so on electricity than others for various reasons. Rest assured that your Boulder City Electric Division is responding immediately to safely restore service as soon as possible.

Unplanned outage durations can be difficult to predict due to the number of variables. Weather, animals, trees, dig-ins, auto accidents, and equipment failures have their own unique set of circumstances and safety procedures. The time it takes to restore power can vary greatly, depending on the cause and circumstance.

Because of this, sometimes we are not able to provide an estimated restoration time. We cannot provide good estimates until the incident has been assessed, a cause determined, and we have assigned a crew to the job. Sometimes conditions change or we may need to bring in additional crews or equipment, and outages may last longer than estimated. Linemen begin at the power source and work their way out to individual services.

What can you do to be prepared for an outage? Place our non-emergency dispatch number (702-293-9224) and account number near your telephone. Create a plan and prepare an emergency preparedness kit with essentials like flashlights, batteries, medicine, blankets, food, and water. Have a battery-powered radio available. Keep refrigerator and freezer doors closed. Food should keep for up to 48 hours in a freezer if the door remains closed.

Recently, after a week of high temperatures over 110 degrees, Boulder City hit our peak demand of 52 MW in the late afternoon of July 21. Many of you experienced electrical outages recently due to various equipment failures. Several contributing factors, such as age and usage, led to equipment failures. Crews immediately responded and safely restored power as soon as possible, working through the night and into the next morning shift. With Electrical Division Supervisor Marvis Poole’s leadership, everyone stayed safe, and no one was hurt during restoration procedures.

We have come a long way since Thomas Edison constructed Pearl Street Station in 1882, the first ever purpose-built power station. Since that time, the grid has expanded and become more interconnected and reliable. Our expectations of a reliable and dependable grid have also expanded.

Twenty years ago, on Aug. 14 and 15, 2003, the Northeast and southern Canada suffered the worst electrical outage in history, with 50 million customers out of power. This was an unprecedented event that stopped trains and elevators and disrupted everything from cellular telephone service to operations at hospitals to traffic at airports.

In the wake of the blackout report, Congress passed the Energy Policy Act of 2005, which expanded the role of the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) by requiring it to solicit, approve and enforce new reliability standards from NERC, now the North American Electricity Reliability Corporation.

As we shift to more carbon-neutral electricity sources as a society, the risk of not meeting our collective energy demands increases. We will need to adapt beyond sole reliance on intermittent renewable resources like solar and wind. While all this is taking place, the Utility Infrastructure Department and the Electric Division are upgrading and replacing equipment to keep the path that electricity travels reliable to you, the end user.

The upgrade process of Substation 3 at the end of Adams Blvd. is underway with the assistance of the Colorado River Commission through an interlocal agreement. Commissioning is scheduled to take place at the end of July 2025. But it does not end there. We are also upgrading Substations 4, 5, and 6 to eventually decommission Substations 1 and 2. This will convert the city’s distribution voltage from 4,160 volts to 12,470 volts – upgrades that will increase reliability and significantly reduce line losses over a 5-to-7-year period.

We are very fortunate to have our own public electric utility with the most competitive rates in the surrounding area. We are also excited to embark on significant and transformative capital investment throughout the electric utility’s infrastructure.

We hear your frustrations when your services are interrupted, and we know that you deserve the best service by a dam site. It is my belief that we have the best and brightest men and women to serve electricity to our community. As we continue to improve, we will continue to address your concerns and strive for excellent service.

Joseph Stubitz is the utilities director for Boulder City.

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