There are many silly holidays. National Bow Tie Day (Aug. 28). Moldy cheese day (Oct. 9). Mad Hatter Day (Oct. 6). Bubble Wrap Appreciation Day (Jan. 30).
As such, National Energy Efficiency Month (October) may appear to be yet another marketing scheme. To some degree, it is. But in Arizona, it’s also something worth celebrating.
For almost eight years, we’ve worked on energy efficiency issues at the Arizona Corporation Commission, which regulates our state’s investor owned utilities, including two of Arizona’s largest electric companies, Arizona Public Service and Tucson Electric Power. We’ve seen firsthand how our state has become a leader in energy efficiency. Electricity customers have reaped the benefits.
The goal was always to ensure affordable costs and improved customer service — to prioritize projects that had a good return on investment.
The Commission examined its options. Energy needs were growing. How would the state best meet demand? We concluded that efficiency was one of the cheapest and best ways to do so.
Let us venture an explanation by analogy. Imagine you had a bucket that you wished to keep full of water but the bucket was littered with holes. You could either pour more water into the bucket (generate more electricity), or you could plug some of the holes (reduce electricity waste). In Arizona, it turns out that plugging the holes — reducing energy waste — costs a sixth of the cost of generating more.
Thanks to the leadership of the Arizona Corporation Commission and the work of Arizona’s utilities, we have dramatically scaled up our energy efficiency efforts. Instead of spending money on more expensive alternatives, we’ve invested in programs that reduce energy waste.
We’ve used a variety of techniques to reduce waste. We’ve helped residential customers program their thermostats, patch air leaks, and install insulation in their attics. We’ve helped businesses swap out old lighting fixtures, replace cooling towers, chillers and pumps, and identify idling equipment that can be turned off most of the time.
Our efforts have been a smashing success. Every $1 invested has returned more than $2 in benefits. Ratepayers have saved more than a billion dollars since 2008 and we have put thousands of Arizonans to work.
Though we’ve now proven that energy efficiency works, we’ve only just begun to tap its potential. Arizonans can continue to save as we cut energy waste by upgrading buildings, improving manufacturing production lines, and installing new sensors and controls. Doing so creates local, family-wage jobs that can’t be outsourced, and such efforts end up paying for themselves.
We’re excited to see what’s next for Arizona on the energy efficiency horizon. Together, we can make Arizona the most energy efficient state in the country.
Bob Stump is a member of the Arizona Corporation Commission and Ellen Zuckerman is Arizona Senior Associate, Southwest Energy Efficiency Project.
The views expressed in guest commentaries are those of the author and are not the views of the Arizona Capitol Times.