Fri, Feb. 28

Commentary: Arizona poised to gain from energy efficiency

Recently, the Arizona Corporation Commission unanimously approved an energy efficiency standard for the utilities they regulate. When the standard is certified by the Attorney General, Arizona’s electric utilities, such as Arizona Public Service (APS) and Tucson Electric Power (TEP) will have to provide a cumulative annual energy savings of 22 percent by 2020.

Building an Energy-Efficient Arizona: Opportunities to Save Money and Reduce Pollution, a report by the Arizona Public Interest Research Group (Arizona PIRG) Education Fund, explains how the transition to energy efficiency will benefit Arizona and highlights successful energy efficiency programs throughout the nation.

Arizona’s growing population has driven state electricity demand, which is projected to continue to grow at nearly double the national average, upward. At its current pace, Arizona will need 16,000 additional megawatts of electricity - the equivalent of 32 large power plants - by 2025. The Arizona PIRG Education Fund’s report demonstrates how the state can reduce this need by effectively implementing programs that promote the energy efficiency standard. In doing so, Arizona utilities can avoid having to build inefficient and expensive coal-fired and natural gas-fired power plants and ratepayers can avoid footing that bill.

With its energy efficiency standard in place, Arizona is poised to gain vast economic benefits associated with energy efficiency. According to the Arizona PIRG Education Fund’s report, energy efficiency programs offered in states from New York to California have provided individual customers with savings of hundreds of dollars each year and netted millions of dollars in statewide savings.

In fact, every dollar spent on energy efficiency contributes $1.67 to the local economy, compared with just $0.33 of every dollar spent on traditional energy resources.

Some of the savings energy efficiency provides belong to consumers who participate in energy efficiency programs, but by reducing energy demand across the board and limiting the need for new generation and transmission, energy efficiency provides significant savings to all electricity customers. At just $0.03 per kilowatt hour delivered to the consumer, energy efficiency is worth the investment.

Perhaps most importantly in this economic climate, the Southwest Energy Efficiency Project (SWEEP) estimates that Arizona’s energy efficiency standard will create 12,000 jobs by 2020. Energy efficiency provides engineering, construction, and maintenance jobs that cannot be outsourced and for which Arizonans would be qualified with minimal retraining.

The many benefits of energy efficiency will be fully reaped only if utilities and the Arizona Corporation Commission work together to develop effective energy efficiency programs. The Arizona PIRG Education Fund’s report highlights education, rebates, and incentives as hallmarks of successful energy efficiency programs.

Consumers who know how to achieve energy efficiency - by buying efficient appliances or eliminating inefficiencies in their homes and businesses - can take advantage of rebates and incentives to put their knowledge into action and create real savings.

Although energy efficiency can cost up front, rebates and incentives - not to mention direct savings - typically help to defray those costs and any upfront costs are typically recovered and then some in a short amount of time. For the state and utilities, rebate and incentive expenditures are recouped through reinvestment in the local economy and the creation of local jobs.

Arizona’s electric utilities have growing energy efficiency programs. Once the new energy efficiency standard takes effect, utilities, the Arizona Corporation Commission, and interested others will need to work together to refine and expand these programs so that all electricity consumers - residential, commercial, and industrial - can reap the benefits of energy efficiency.

The ultimate goal of energy efficiency is to ensure that meaningful results are achieved at reasonable costs. The Arizona PIRG Education Fund’s report - available to the public at - demonstrates why and how Arizona could reach this goal.

Ben Kitto is a representative of the Arizona PIRG Education Fund. He can be reached at 602-252-4058.

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