State action may threaten about 40,000 jobs in Arizona’s energy industry, but those jobs aren’t ones that immediately come to mind. Instead, the 40,000 jobs – more than coal, wind, solar, oil and gas combined – are in energy efficiency. These well-paying jobs can’t be outsourced because the work (like installation of equipment) must be done locally. Yet the Arizona Corporation Commission (ACC) will soon review utilities’ requests that could scale back the very policies that have encouraged job creation and savings for Arizona consumers and businesses. The ACC should understand that strong utility policies support energy efficiency jobs, including for my coworkers at Dynamic Systems, Inc.
Energy efficiency is what drives success for about 185 Arizona employees delivering the latest energy-saving options to our customers. We install the air systems that keep homes and businesses healthy and comfortable – and that prevent air from leaking away after owners pay for the energy to heat or cool it.
We’re the men and women behind welding masks and HVAC systems that keep cool or warm air circulating through ventilation ducts. We also install the piping and equipment needed to balance the systems. These simple projects can cut a building’s energy costs by up to 30 percent.
At Arizona State University, for example, we helped construct one of Arizona’s first buildings to earn the top Platinum score through the U.S. Green Building Council’s LEED Green Building Rating System. The building features sensors that automatically control lighting and reduce energy use by 29 percent. We installed an innovative, variable-volume exhaust system that uses less energy to meet the laboratory’s ventilation requirements.
These projects support Arizona jobs and help Arizona institutions, businesses and families do the same work with less energy. Efficiency programs and services also make Arizona more competitive by controlling costs. When homeowners and institutions spend less on electricity, they have more money to put into the bottom line or spend on other things, helping to grow the economy and keep money in Arizona.
Energy efficiency in Arizona pays for itself. For example, in 2016, every $1 that Tucson Electric Power spent on its energy efficiency programs returned about $2.70 in benefits to the economy.
Despite these great returns, Arizona Public Service Company has asked the ACC to let it cut back on their energy efficiency programs, including reducing services and rebates for customers. Meanwhile, many of Tucson Electric Power’s programs were suspended this year, and Tucson Electric is asking the ACC to restore them. Arizona shouldn’t backslide on energy efficiency, because the cutbacks jeopardize our future.
Arizona’s energy efficiency leadership is supported through a local state-of-the-art training center that helps my colleagues and other union workers keep up with new technology. At the Sheet Metal, Air, Rail & Transportation Workers (SMART) Local 359 training center, workers from around the region learn to optimize energy use in all facets of the HVAC industry.
We barely have scratched the surface of what Arizona can do with efficiency. Imagine how many jobs we could create, how much we could grow the economy, and how much money we could save if Arizona had more ambitious efficiency programs and services. I’m asking the ACC to reject plans that cut utility funding for energy efficiency programs, so that we can seize the opportunity to scale up our efficiency industry.
— Darrell Fox, vice president of Dynamic Systems, Inc., serves on the board of trustees for the Arizona Chapter of Sheet Metal and Air Conditioning Contractors’ National Association.
The views expressed in guest commentaries are those of the author and are not the views of the Arizona Capitol Times.