Tucson Electric Power Co. wants to expand its energy-efficiency programs next year, with new incentives for things like energy-stingy home appliances and heating and cooling system tuneups.

In a recent filing with the Arizona Corporation Commission, TEP has proposed raising the overall annual budget for the ratepayer-funded energy-saving programs to $23 million in 2016, up from $19 million this year.

Programs TEP proposes to add next year include:

  • New incentives for federal Energy Star-certified home appliances, including rebates for the purchase of efficient ceiling fans, freezers, central and room air conditioners, clothes washers and refrigerators;
  • Rebates for “advanced tuneups” of heating and cooling systems; energy-saving motor controls and motors; and so-called “smart” thermostats, which can monitor power usage and program themselves based on customer behavior;
  • New offerings for apartment complexes, including heating and cooling system tuneups, advanced motor controls, air-duct testing and repair, and high-efficiency LED (light-emitting diode) lighting;
  • Fourteen new incentive offerings for commercial and industrial customers, including rebates for LED lighting, advanced equipment controls, sun-blocking window film and advanced energy-management software.

The utility also is asking for a waiver from the state-mandated energy-efficiency rules, predicting that it will fall short of its incremental savings goals even with the program additions.

The efficiency programs help state-regulated power companies comply with a 2010 state mandate to reach 22 percent in cumulative energy savings by 2020. After failing to meet the standard four years in a row, TEP has estimated it will reach energy savings of about 11 percent in 2016, still short of the 12 percent in savings required under the state energy-efficiency standard by next year.

About half the states have some kind of energy-efficiency standard, and they are expected to drive estimated energy savings of more than 6 percent of total U.S. power usage by 2020, according to the nonprofit American Council for an Energy-Efficient Economy.

Other Arizona utilities including the state-regulated Arizona Public Service Co. and the self-governed Salt River Project have been ahead of TEP in the number and variety of program offerings to customers.

“We see this as TEP catching up with the rest of the state,” said Jeff Schlegel, Arizona representative for the Southwest Energy Efficiency Project, known as SWEEP.

Schlegel said SWEEP supports TEP’s 2016 plan but opposes any waiver to the rules, contending that the efficiency rules are meant to be multi-year goals with no real penalties for failing to reach annual goals.

There’s no guarantee the Corporation Commission will approve the new programs TEP has proposed for 2016. TEP added several programs this year after lengthy regulatory delays in approval in prior years, and last year the Corporation Commission discussed scrapping the state efficiency standard altogether amid cost concerns.

TEP ratepayers subsidize the energy-efficiency programs through a state-approved surcharge of about $2 a month for the typical home customer. Under TEP’s 2016 proposal, it is likely that usage-based charge would increase by an estimated 48 cents monthly.

The Arizona Corporation Commission has not yet scheduled a hearing on TEP’s proposal, which the utility filed on June 1.

Contact Assistant Business Editor David Wichner at dwichner@tucson.com or 573-4181.


David joined the Star in 1997, after working as a consumer and business reporter in Phoenix for more than a decade. A graduate of Ohio University, he has covered most business beats focusing on technology, defense and utilities. He has won several awards.