Arizona would abandon an energy efficiency program designed to reduce the consumption of electricity and natural gas under a proposal given to utility regulators.
According to a report posted at AZ Central, the website for The Arizona Republic, the staff of the Arizona Corporation Commission has submitted the recommendation to the panel of five elected commissioners.
The efficiency program was approved in 2010 on a unanimous 5-0 vote. It requires electric utilities to reduce the amount of electricity it sells by 22 percent by 2020 by encouraging conservation. Separately, the commission passed a rule requiring natural-gas utilities to cut consumption through efficiency programs by 6 percent over the same period, AZ Central said.
Together the programs were expected to save consumers $9 billion through 2020. But earlier this year, Commissioner Gary Pierce asked the staff to come up with ways to amend the rules.
“Low-hanging fruit” is gone
“The rules were set up, and it was pretty easy at first to capture all the low-hanging fruit,” said Pierce, who voted for the rules four years ago. “But as we started reaching, these companies, because they are under an order to reach certain levels of energy efficiency, they were looking for stuff and trying to plug it in no matter what the costs.”
“At the end of the day, we want to be as energy-efficient of a state as we can but not overpay for this energy efficiency,” he said.
Utilities currently subsidize the cost of efficient light bulbs and offer rebates for efficient appliances and home-energy audits, the website reported, which costs tens of millions of dollars per year.
Pierce said if the proposal is approved, utilities would not have to over-subsidize efficiency programs for the sake of meeting a particular goal. But regulators would be able to require reasonable efficiency measures.
“This is just crazy,” Kris Mayes, the chairwoman of the commission when the rule passed, told AZ Central. Nothing in the record suggests the standard is not working. This is just offensive. This is a free pass for utilities to give up on energy efficiency.”