Opinion: APS, Arizona Corporation Commission Fail to Protect Vulnerable Ratepayers
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15 May 2020
  Diane E. Brown, Executive Director PIRG
"Organizations also stated they opposed using energy efficiency funds for anything other than energy efficiency programs and urged the Commission to consider other funding options for providing relief."

Arizona PIRG Education Fund and Southwest Energy Efficiency Project (SWEEP) said a recent vote by the Arizona Corporation Commission, the state’s utility regulators, failed to provide the short-term relief many Arizona Public Service ratepayers need now and the long-term relief many APS ratepayers will need for months to come.

APS proposed taking ratepayer money designated for energy efficiency programs to provide emergency relief for “customers experiencing financial hardship due to COVID-19 pandemic instead”. APS had a pot of $39 million to fund energy efficiency programs but had not allocated the funds.

Diane E. Brown, Executive Director of the Arizona PIRG Education Fund, stated, “APS originally requested providing $16 million to their residential and small business customers most in need. However, APS pulled the plug at the last minute and instead supported using $36 million to provide refunds of $50,000 on average to each Extra-Large General Service customer and less than $8 on average to each household in the small residential customer segment.” Brown called the APS shift “staggering” and said it would save just a small percentage off the mounting bills of those financially impacted by COVID-19. 

While the Arizona PIRG Education Fund and SWEEP said they recognized and appreciated the desire of Commissioners and APS to provide support to ratepayers in need, the organizations also stated they opposed using energy efficiency funds for anything other than energy efficiency programs and urged the Commission to consider other funding options for providing relief. Energy efficiency is widely acclaimed as providing long-term relief that helps customers lower their bills, reduces energy waste, creates jobs, and boosts the local economy.  

Caryn Potter, a Program Associate with the SWEEP, added, “The goal of energy efficiency programs is to provide cost savings to customers over an extended period by reducing consumption. In light of the impacts of COVID-19, it is even more critical that the Arizona Corporation Commission move quickly to approve APS’s 2020 DSM plan so that Arizona families can be given meaningful long-term relief.”

The organizations noted the Commission can still provide long-term relief to APS customers by bringing the proposed APS 2020 Demand-Side Management (DSM) Plan to a vote next month. The DSM Plan has the potential to boost weatherization in low-income homes, provide an increase in HVAC rebates and conduct virtual energy audits. Since 2010, DSM Plans through Arizona’s Energy Efficiency Standard have saved money for ratepayers, led to job creation, and produced more than $1 billion in net economic benefits.

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The Arizona PIRG Education Fund is an independent, non-partisan group that works for consumers and the public interest. Through research, public education and outreach, we serve as counterweights to the influence of powerful special interests that threaten our health, safety or well-being. For more information, visit www.ArizonaPIRGEducationFund.org 

The Southwest Energy Efficiency Project is a public interest organization promoting greater energy efficiency in Arizona, Colorado, Nevada, New Mexico, Utah, and Wyoming. For more information, visit www.swenergy.org

Diane E. Brown, Executive Director 
Arizona PIRG (Arizona Public Interest Research Group) Education Fund
130 N. Central Ave. - Ste. 202 
Phoenix, AZ 85004 
(602)252-9227 (o) 
(602)318-2779 (c)