Efficient energy should be SRP's priority - East Valley Tribune: Opinion

Efficient energy should be SRP's priority

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Posted: Sunday, February 7, 2010 2:59 pm | Updated: 3:42 am, Sat Oct 8, 2011.

Diane E. Brown: By increasing effective energy-efficiency programs at SRP to at least 20 percent by 2020, we will be on the way to an energy-efficient Arizona.

As has often been said, "Those who do not learn from history are condemned to repeat it."

Over the last several months, hundreds of business and residential customers have told the Salt River Project not to continue down a dirty, dangerous and expensive energy path. SRP responded by delaying their rate proposal this fall and in the meantime chose to increase energy efficiency, based in part on customer input.

With the modified rate proposal soon before the SRP Board, we ask SRP to not rest on its laurels but to stay on course and go the distance.

SRP's proposed rate hike can largely be attributable to costs associated with coal-fired power plants, namely Springerville 4 and the Coronado Generating Station. While we appreciate SRP's commitment to delay new power plants and power lines whenever possible, it is important for SRP to concede that investing in coal is investing in the past and investing in energy efficiency provides the best return on ratepayer investments and is the future.

Business and residential ratepayers have echoed that sentiment by sending and continuing to send SRP a loud and clear message: Energy efficiency saves businesses and consumers money, reduces air pollution, and protects public health.

As SRP's proceedings continue, we encourage consideration of the Arizona PIRG Education Fund's Principles for the Electric System, which includes:

Access to safe, reliable, affordable electricity service. The goal of electricity regulation should be to provide adequate, reliable service to consumers at the lowest cost - including external costs such as public health, economic and social impacts.

Balance the long-term and short-term needs of consumers, as well as the interests of various classes of consumers. Electricity rates should be designed to promote economically efficient and socially responsible outcomes - including energy efficiency, rate stability and the protection of low-income consumers.

Consumers should be assured that the public interest guides all decisions with regard to the electric system. System planning must take place in the public sphere, include ample opportunities for broad public participation in decision-making and ensure that the views of small consumers are adequately represented in the process.

Transparency and opportunities for public participation are key ingredients to a successful ratemaking process. Due to customers' comments, SRP is now posting meetings and related information on its Web site, is allowing customers to provide comments online, has conducted informational open houses with knowledgeable staff in various communities in its service territory, and has allowed the public to ask questions and present comments before members of their board and management.

By focusing on the effects and impacts of energy-efficiency policies for business and residential customers and not primarily on their funding or spending levels, SRP can ensure that the rate of return on energy-efficiency programs is a good, sound investment for all SRP ratepayers. Instituting yearly energy-efficiency program ramp-ups, benchmarks, and evaluation open to the public provides accessibility and accountability.

With a brown cloud all too often hanging over the Valley, anticipated population growth in our state generating additional energy and water demands, high asthma and other respiratory illness rates attributed in part to nonrenewable energy sources, energy efficiency is a clean and healthy solution for SRP ratepayers.

By committing to energy efficiency and increasing effective energy-efficiency programs at SRP to at least 20 percent by 2020, we will be on the way to an energy-efficient Arizona and a clean energy future - one worth learning from and repeating!

Diane E. Brown is a Gilbert resident. Brown is also the executive director of the Arizona PIRG Education Fund, an organization that conducts research and education on issues in the public interest. More information can be found at www.arizonapirg.org.

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