Diane E. Brown

Diane E. Brown

While spring has sprung, here in the Valley it is beginning to feel more like summer. And with 100-degree days around the corner, many of us are beginning to think about where we will take refuge from the heat and how high our electric bills will climb.

Fortunately for Salt River Project (SRP) customers, in recent years the company has increased its commitment to energy efficiency — an immediate and proven way to reduce electric bills. Unfortunately for SRP customers, SRP management continues to put forth budgets that fail to provide adequate information, does not suitably protect ratepayers from future price increases, and does not present customers and others with the opportunity for meaningful input.

More specifically, in order to make informed decisions, the SRP Board of Directors and the public should be provided with the following:

1. Integrated resource plan options. Regulated utilities in Arizona, such as Arizona Public Service and Tucson Electric Power, provide a 15-year energy portfolio and estimated cost scenarios for decision makers to determine future resource direction, while also providing an opportunity for public input. SRP management should provide at least the same level of information to its Board and ratepayers for consideration before another fiscal year’s budget is approved.

2. Specific energy efficiency and renewable energy trajectories. Energy efficiency is the cheapest, cleanest, and quickest way to meet growing energy needs. While renewable energy also offers tremendous benefits to Arizona’s economy, air quality, and public health; energy efficiency and renewable energy are distinct, price stable resources that should have separate standards, at least as strong as the regulated utilities in our state. SRP management should provide the Board and ratepayers with separate standards and budget trajectories before another fiscal year’s budget is approved.

In addition, the Arizona PIRG Education Fund sees no justification for temporary reduction of the Environmental Programs Cost Adjustment Factor from May to October 2013.

While we are sensitive to high utility bills in the “summer” months, by reducing the amount of available funding for energy efficiency, SRP ratepayers lose a valuable opportunity to reduce monthly electric bills. SRP can maintain funding for cost-effective and popular energy efficiency programs and provide relief to its customers by instead reducing other costs.

3. Information on cost-reduction measures. During the most recent price proposal proceeding, we stated that although we were pleased SRP reduced costs by approximately $1.2 billion in fiscal years 2010-2012, SRP has not presented what steps are being taken to reduce costs in the future.

Ratepayers have questioned SRP’s contributions to the Super Bowl Host Committee and various nonprofits, regardless of how noble the organization. Eliminating marketing and contributions irrelevant to the promotion of energy efficiency and renewable energy programs would be of financial benefit to ratepayers.

As the economy begins to turn more favorable, it will be all the more important to prepare for anticipated energy needs. SRP is woefully behind Arizona’s other major utilities when it comes to instituting resource planning processes and a strong standard for energy efficiency. It is time for SRP to at least catch up.

• Diane E. Brown is executive director of the Arizona PIRG Education Fund, which conducts research and education on issues in the public interest. More information can be found at www.arizonapirg.org.

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