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Yesterday, Arizona Public Service (APS) let the Arizona Corporation Commission know it is willing to partially restore funding for its energy efficiency programs. Energy efficiency advocates wasted no time calling on the Arizona Corporation Commission to move swiftly to approve financial relief for more ratepayers.
The popular energy efficiency programs are designed to help ratepayers save money by providing homeowners and businesses with rebates and services to patch air leaks, upgrade thermostats, purchase energy-efficient air conditioners and take other steps to reduce electricity waste.
APS drastically cut funding for energy efficiency programs in recent years. In 2017, APS invested $72 million into energy efficiency programs; currently it spends around $34 million.
When APS cut funding, many ratepayers spoke out against the cuts, including more than 150 businesses. Under the new agreement, funding for energy efficiency will be restored to about $50 million annually, with more money available to renters and for the weatherization of low-income housing.
"Reducing electricity consumption is a vital action to take in preserving God's creation and protecting the most vulnerable in our communities," said Reverend Doug Bland of Arizona Interfaith Power and Light who added, "Low-income families, children, and the elderly often suffer the most. Arizona Interfaith Power and Light applauds APS for taking this first step to promise greater equity and a healthier environment across the state."
Diane E. Brown, Executive Director of the Arizona PIRG Education Fund called the increase of energy efficiency funding a step in the right direction. “Energy efficiency is a prudent investment. Energy efficiency saves energy and saves money for consumers. Given high electric bills, many ratepayers seek opportunities for financial relief. More funding for energy efficiency programs could and should result in improved and new opportunities and tools to control electricity bills. The Arizona Corporation Commission should approve additional funding for energy efficiency programs and then extend and expand Arizona’s Energy Efficiency Standard to ensure consistent energy and consumer savings over the next decade.”
Elena Chrimat, co-founder of Ideal Energy, knows firsthand how important a utility’s energy efficiency programs are to ratepayers. “As a contractor who installs energy efficient air conditioners daily, I know how impactful residential programs are to ensure year-round comfort. Delays in funding can make or break a customer’s ability to upgrade their systems at home. The Arizona Corporation Commission needs to approve APS’s plan as soon as possible.”
“Energy efficiency programs ultimately save all utility customers money, regardless of whether an individual ratepayer takes advantage of them, said Ellen Zuckerman, the Arizona Representative of the Southwest Energy Efficiency Project (SWEEP).
That’s because when ratepayers collectively reduce their electricity waste, utility companies can avoid building new power plants, which cost hundreds of millions of dollars and are a major driver of rising electricity costs.
“The cheapest power plant is the one you never have to build,” Zuckerman said. “We have barely even scratched the surface of what energy efficiency can do for Arizona. While SWEEP is happy to see an increased budget for residential programs, APS is also planning for less energy savings from businesses, which is a missed opportunity for efficiency. Regardless of the program changes, the 2020 plan is a step in the right direction and the Arizona Corporation Commission must accelerate the approval of APS’s plan. The longer the plan is unapproved, the longer ratepayers have to wait to save potentially hundreds to thousands of dollars on their electric bills.”
Cynthia Zwick, Executive Director at Wildfire, which advocates for low-income families, described the partial restoration of efficiency programs, including weatherization, as an improvement, but had concerns about implementation. “It has sometimes taken utility regulators years to approve programs like these,” Zwick said, “and every day we wait is another day when people are struggling to pay their bills. We need the Arizona Corporation Commission to move forward with this plan immediately.”
Research shows that every $1 invested in efficiency has returned more ~$4 in benefits, according to reports APS and Tucson Electric Power have filed with the Commission. Energy efficiency also supports more than 43,000 jobs in Arizona, according to data from the 2019 U.S. Energy and Employment Report.
Now that APS’s energy efficiency program plan for 2020 has been released, the Arizona Corporation Commission must approve the plan during an opening meeting. Once the plan is approved, ratepayers can reap the benefits of energy efficiency in APS’s service territory once again.
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