Utility Energy Efficiency Rules

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The Arizona Corporation Commission is expected to take up a matter that critics say could essentially end energy efficiency rules for utilities. Luige del Puerto of the Arizona Capitol Times will explain.

Ted Simons: Coming up next on Arizona Horizon. The Arizona corporation commission is set to consider dropping energy efficiency standards for utilities. Hear about a multi-state agreement involving the cap and water supplies in Lake Mead, and a new report shows a slight increase in arts education in Arizona. Those stories next on Arizona Horizon.
Video: Arizona Horizon is made possible by the contributions from the friends of Eight, members of your Arizona PBS station. Thank you.
Ted Simons: Good evening and welcome to Arizona Horizon. I'm Ted Simons. Phoenix police chief Daniel Garcia was fired late this afternoon. Garcia was fired moments after holding a Press Conference in inn which he demanded a two-year contract. The Press Conference occurred after Garcia met with city manager Ed zerker, and he was told not to hold a Press Conference, but Garcia went ahead and was fired by the city manager for insubordination. Daniel Garcia out as Phoenix police chief. We will have much more on this story tomorrow on the journalist's roundtable. The Arizona Corporation Commission will hold a hearing tomorrow on a matter that could end energy efficiency standards for utilities. Here with the details is Luige Del Puerto of the Arizona Capitol Times. Luige, good to have you here. Thanks for coming in and talking about this now. This is energy efficiency requirements. This has been in place since 2010. What are we talking about here?
Luige del Puerto: We are talking about systems that consumers, rate payers have been able to access, essentially, and use incentives to lower their electricity bills, for example. The management systems that would help you determine when to use energy, but having trees in front of your windows, for example, that would lower the cost of your electricity bills, and all of this efficiency systems, as you mentioned, have been in place a number of years now, and they are supposed to go on for several more years, and would save the customers, rate payers between $7 and $9 billion over the cycle of this life cycle of this program.
Ted Simons: And indeed, these are programs that are designed to help the consumer to save energy, but subsidizing, and light bulbs, and with a better, more efficient home appliances, maybe home energy checks, and these sorts of things, and I understand that this cost money to the utilities, but how much does it cost and how much is that saving the utilities from other costs?
Luige del Puerto: Well, $7 to $9 billion in savings that the rate payers, the customers will save within the life cycle of the program, the amount of money that the utilities are losing because any time you use less electricity, that means you are not paying for it, less revenue for the utilities, so of course, the whole idea, the whole concept is that if we are using less energy, if we are being more efficient with our energy use, maybe we do not have to pay for or invest in big infrastructure projects, for example, your power plant, and that would cost more money for everybody to rate payers, so the idea is that if we can save and be more efficient with our energy use, then at the end, everybody wins. That's the concept.
Ted Simons: If everybody win, why are they considering this?
Luige del Puerto: That's a really good question. Right now, we are considering a whole lot of things. A lot of things are changing. Solar energy has dramatically changed the way, some aspects of the way that we structure our energy system, if you will. As all these are happening. There is maybe we should revisit this energy efficiency system and try to see if they are worth it, whether we should continue with them, and maybe there is another way of doing them. Maybe even, you know, maybe the utilities can offer something better. Perhaps, but, the thing is, that all of these things will be hashed out tomorrow, but I do not think that they are going to vote on them tomorrow. It has been decided that it will be too big of a thing to deal within the next couple days, so, I think that what they have in mind is to hear this, get the input from a lot of stakeholders, and in the next commission, will be the one that decides what to do, even at all to revisit, and then change those the system that we have.
Ted Simons: And the next commission is right around the corner. This commission now getting ready to get out of there, anything happening down there at the commission with this the last roar of the crowd.
Luige del Puerto: The last hurrah. In fact, today, the commission did some very heavy lifting on several major issues before the commission. One of them is, of course, the proposal by the utilities, tep and aps to install solar rooftop on, you know, hundreds of, even thousands of consumers. The utilities are saying that we need this, so that we can offer this solar rooftop system to those who can afford it and solar energy are saying, we don't need it. The private sector will take care of this, and you know, this is just a way for the utilities to compete with us.
Ted Simons: And what's going to happen tomorrow along with now this consideration of the energy efficiency program? More on the rooftop, solar?
Luige del Puerto: Yes, it's going to be part of it. Everything is happening so quickly, and in fact, even as we are talking right now, they are debating the Corporation Commission, even now, about specifically the proposal to install rooftop solar.
Ted Simons: The makeup of the commission, as it stands, compared to the makeup of the commission next go around. What are we seeing here as far as that dynamic?
Luige del Puerto: Well, you know, they are all Republicans. Nothing has changed there. However, parking affiliation that really as less to do with their decisions. We have seen this commission getting divided, and a whole set of issues, including last year's net metering fight, including the bigger fight over energy, the regulation. I think that there is going to be a lot of learning curve, very steep learning curve for the two incoming commissioners. You know, the issues before the commission are very technical. They are very big. And a fascinating thing about it, you know, is that we are all consumers of electricity. And whatever this small, but very influential commission does, affects every one of us.
Ted Simons: When we get back to the program, and the idea, you are gutting it or slimming it down so maybe every two years you revisit it over and over again. The idea is that there is, what, too much over subsidizing going on? Is that the major concern? I realize $9 billion saved to consumers is $9 lost to coffers, but we have talked about the fact that it means you live to build new power plants. This seems like it's a biggy.
Luige del Puerto: There is always that subset of thinking driving this one, that maybe we are subsidizing the use of energy too much. We are doing it with, you know, we're not giving incentives through solar rooftop, and even then, we are debating whether the incentives should be there in the first place, so there is that obviously, there is the driver, the thinking, the paradigm that maybe we are subsidizing consumers too much. Of course, at the end of the day, consumers pay for everything.
Ted Simons: Right.
Luige del Puerto: We do.
Ted Simons: Yeah. Well, we'll see how much we pay for it. And we'll see what happens tomorrow. Luige, thanks for coming in. We appreciate if.
Thank you.

Luige del Puerto:Journalist, Arizona Capitol Times;

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