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AZ Utilities Propose Major Energy-Efficiency Expansion

March 12, 2012

PHOENIX - Arizona's two largest private electric companies would expand their energy-efficiency programs, and add some new ones, under proposals being considered this month by the Arizona Corporation Commission. The first plan from Tucson Electric Power will be reviewed and voted on on Friday.

Hank Krzysik, a Tucson practitioner of sustainable architecture, says energy efficiency doesn't have to mean solar panels, but can be simple steps like using compact fluorescent light bulbs and caulking.

"Just taking a look at where the breezes are coming in and out of your home, where the hot air's going out, where the cold air's coming in. And just with a caulking gun and a tube and sweat equity, if you will, you can make a huge difference."

TEP and other major electric companies offer a subsidized home energy audit to pinpoint air leaks in a house and offer advice on ways to save energy. The new efficiency program will cost the average customer an extra $2 a month, although Krzysik says savings will be immediate. And, in the longer term, electric bills should be substantially lower because expensive new power plants won't have to be built.

Jeff Schlegel of the Southwest Energy Efficiency Project in Arizona says home energy audits by qualified contractors would be offered at a sharply-reduced price, and the improvements they recommend would also be offered at a steep discount.

"They will actually increase the energy efficiency of the home during that visit, and they offer you rebates or financial incentives for additional measures. For example, let's say your home needs additional insulation or could benefit from an air conditioner replacement, an energy-efficient air conditioner."

Hank Krzysik says he's especially excited by a pilot program proposed by Tucson Electric Power for local financing of residential energy-efficiency upgrades.

"We don't want to go out-of-state for funding opportunities. We want our contractors to be able to make these improvements and put people back to work here locally, and have the money, the financing, stay in our community as well."

The Corporation Commission hears a similar energy-efficiency plan for Arizona Public Service on March 27. The state's other major electric company, Salt River Project, is not regulated by the Commission, but says it will also move forward with an expanded energy-efficiency program later this spring.

Doug Ramsey, Public News Service - AZ