Katherine Davis-Young, Public News Service (AZ)
PHOENIX – Arizonans know when the temperature climbs outside and their air conditioners are blowing, electric bills can climb, too.
But consumer advocates say utilities in the state could be doing more to save energy – and save ratepayers money.
Diane Brown, executive director of Arizona Public Interest Research Group (PIRG) Education Fund, says utilities that invest in efficiency programs can not only reduce bills for their customers, but also decrease demand on the electric grid, and even create job growth in fields like appliance installation.
“Energy efficiency should be a no-brainer when it comes to increased investment in programs that ultimately, will save businesses and households money on monthly electric bills,” she states.
The Arizona Corporation Commission regulates major utilities, including Arizona Public Service in Phoenix and rural areas, and Tucson Electric Power.
Both utilities have gotten recent rate hikes, but the commission hasn’t pushed back when the companies also cut back their energy efficiency programs.
Brown is counting on that to come up at the commission’s August meeting.
Brown says utilities could easily offer more customer rebates for energy saving “smart” appliances, and provide more energy audits to help families assess the best ways to reduce bills.
She maintains the Corporation Commission should be doing more to protect ratepayers.
“The Arizona Corporation Commission needs to require the restoration of programs and increase investment in energy saving programs from the utilities, as soon as possible,” Brown stresses.
Arizona is one of only a few states in which these types of commissions are made up of elected officials. The commission has a broad range of responsibilities, but Brown says ensuring that utilities stay affordable should be a high priority.