Tucson electricity ratepayers raise alarm about service rollbacks

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Arizona PIRG Education Fund


Tucson Electric Power (TEP) ratepayers are raising the alarm about plans to suspend energy efficiency programs that save ratepayers money. 

Over three dozen community groups, businesses, trade associations and more than 300 residents signed onto letters to the chair of the Arizona Corporation Commission, which regulates TEP. In the letters, ratepayers urged regulators to help moderate electricity costs by ramping up energy efficiency investments.

Ratepayers said they were surprised that TEP, after hiking rates, announced it may cut back programs designed to help small businesses, renters, and families save money by improving their energy efficiency.

“During times of upward rate pressure, (Tucson Electric Power)’s energy efficiency offerings are more vital than ever because they help residents and businesses control their energy costs, drive down energy bills, and redirect savings to the local economy,” the letters said. “During times like these, (Tucson Electric Power)’s energy efficiency programs should be strengthened — not weakened or suspended.”

“As we approach some of the hottest days of summer, energy efficiency programs are even more critical for helping to keep bills lower and people more comfortable in their homes and businesses,” stated Diane E. Brown, Executive Director of the Arizona PIRG Education Fund.

To meet electricity needs, TEP can either increase energy generation or decrease energy demand. Research shows that it costs about four times as much to increase generation than to decrease demand through efficiency. However, utility companies sometimes prefer to increase generation because it allows them to charge ratepayers more.

“Efficiency saves us money and helps us create jobs,” said Hank Krysik, a Tucson architect. “At a time when businesses have many options on where to invest, strong energy efficiency standards and programs are a major consideration when businesses decide where to expand operations.”

Research shows that energy efficiency in Tucson has delivered on its promises to provide a high return on investment, save money, and create jobs. For example:

·         Every $1 invested in energy efficiency returned ~$2.70 in benefits to ratepayers, according to Tucson Electric’s 2016 Annual Demand Side Management Report.

·         Energy efficiency has created more than 39,000 jobs across the state, including more than 4,200 in Pima County, according to a recent report. These well-paying jobs are in hands-on fields such as installation and, as a result, cannot be outsourced.

·         Investing in energy efficiency by, for example, providing people with rebates to have their air conditioners tuned, has been much less expensive than taking steps to generate more electricity, such as buying it at a premium on the open market or building new power plants, according to Tucson Electric’s 2011-2015 Annual Demand Side Management Reports; and TEP’s 2016 Preliminary Integrated Resource Plan.

Several high-profile trade associations, which include members that are among the largest electricity users in the state, were among the supporters for maintaining energy efficiency programs and services. The businesses and organizations that signed the letter include:

Alliance for Industrial Efficiency

American Council for Consumer Awareness

Antigone Books

Architectural Fusion

Arizona Community Action Association (ACAA)

Arizona Interfaith Power and Light

Arizona PIRG Education Fund

Arizona Utility Ratepayers Alliance (AURA)

AARP Arizona

Borderlands Brewing

Casa Maria

Celestial Rites

Colobal Family Legal Services

Development Center for Appropriate Technology

Efficiency First Arizona (EFAZ)

Environmental Entrepreneurs (E2)

GeoInnovation, LLC

Guilin Chinese Restaurant

Lite Energy

National Association of Energy Service Companies (NAESCO)

National Electrical Manufacturers Association (NEMA)

Nest Labs

Net Zero Solar

North American Insulation Manufacturers Association (NAIMA)

Ordinary Bike Shop

Our Mother of Sorrows Church

Physicians for Social Responsibility

Polyisocyanurate Insulation Manufacturers Association (PIMA)

Revolutionary Grounds

Sheet Metal and Air Conditioning Contractors’ National Association (SMACNA)

Sheet Metal and Air Conditioning Contractors’ National Association – Arizona Chapter

Social Justice Council, Unitarian Universalist Church of Tucson

SW Center for Economic Integrity

Swaim Associates Architects, LTD

Tierra y Libertad

Tucson 2030 District

Tucson Bus Riders Union

Tucson Urban League

Western Grid Group