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Today, four of Arizona’s utility regulators at the Arizona Corporation Commission decided to delay again the start of new programs that would save money and energy for Tucson Electric Power customers. While the Commission approved increased funding for energy efficiency programs overall, their decision denied immediate utility bill relief to renters, schools, businesses, and other customers. The decision to stall the new money-saving programs took place as the Commission approved a 4.4-percent increase in the rates of TEP’s residential customers.
Diane E. Brown, executive director of the consumer watchdog Arizona PIRG Education Fund, explained that the Arizona Corporation Commission’s decision to delay programs again could not come at a worse time. “Tucson residents are about to be hit by a 4.4-percent rate increase. Additional energy efficiency programs would have provided more ways for customers to save money on their electricity bills now and after the rate increase goes into effect on July 1st.”
The new energy-saving programs have been on hold for more than two years. They were deliberated extensively as part of a special evidentiary process that resulted in their recommendation for implementation by an independent judge. The new programs were also supported by hundreds of customers, major consumer and community groups, and staff at the Arizona Corporation Commission. The programs that would have been launched included a program to help renters save money on their electricity bills and a financing program that was developed after more than three years of work by local area churches.
The decision not to approve the new programs was spearheaded by Commissioner Gary Pierce. Commissioner Susan Bitter Smith was the only commissioner who voted against the continued program delays and the overall rate increase.
Jeff Schlegel, the Arizona representative with the Southwest Energy Efficiency Project (SWEEP), explained why today’s decision will drive up customer costs. “First individual customers will not be able to save money through the programs that TEP would have offered. Second under TEP’s long-terms plans, TEP will now have to meet energy needs with resources that cost 4-to-14-times more. Without these energy efficiency programs, Tucson customers will see much higher electricity bills in the future - guaranteed.”
“I am extremely disappointed in the Arizona Corporation Commissioners who voted to increase my electricity bill,” said TEP customer Ken Bierman. “TEP customers, including me, will have to pay for the costs of this bad decision. “We will be forced to pay for more power plants and transmission lines. Meanwhile, fewer programs that help my neighbors and me save money on our electricity bills – programs that save energy and water, plus reduce pollution – will be available.”
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