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Arizona posts sharp improvement in energy efficiency policies, report says

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WASHINGTON – Arizona is ranked 12th in the nation for its energy-efficiency policies, making it one of the most-improved states in the country over the last year, according to a report released Wednesday.

The report by the American Council for an Energy-Efficient Economy moved Arizona up from last year’s 17th place largely because the state is starting to see results from aggressive energy-efficiency standards it adopted in 2010.

That’s when the Arizona Corporation Commission set a goal of a 22 percent reduction in energy consumption by 2020 from the utilities it oversees in the state.

“Arizona’s goals are among the highest in the country,” said Jeff Schlegel, the Arizona representative for the Colorado-based Southwest Energy Efficiency Project.

“The strongest, most ambitious goal in the country is to save 2.5 percent every year” and Arizona’s goal is not much less than that, he said.

Arizona’s 22 percent goal is cumulative and averages to savings of just over 2 percent a year, said Schlegel. He noted that most states don’t have any goals and those that do often set only an annual goal and not a 10-year goal.

The 2012 State Energy Efficiency Scorecard ranks states on a maximum of 50 points over six categories: utility and public benefits programs and policies, transportation policies, building energy codes, combined heat and power, state government initiatives, and appliance efficiency standards.

Arizona’s lowest score – two points out of a possible nine – came for its transportation policies. That category rated each state on whether it had legislation encouraging transit investment by state or local governments.

The state’s best showing was for utility and public benefits programs and policies, under which the corporation commission’s energy efficiency standards fall.

Commission spokeswoman Rebecca Wilder said the agency requires each utility it oversees, including Arizona Public Service and Tucson Electric Power, to ensure they meet the standards through such programs as customer rebates and incentives to reduce energy use.

APS, for example, offers customers up to $270 in rebates if they upgrade to more-efficient air-conditioning units. The programs are funded by a monthly surcharge that costs that average customer about $3 a month, said APS spokesman Steven Gotfried.

“These programs were developed to help us meet the energy efficiency resource standard set by the Arizona Corporation Commission,” he said.

Schlegel said the ultimate goal is to lower consumers’ electricity bills, save water, reduce pollution and create jobs.

“It really adds up over time and becomes a really great resource for the future of Arizona,” he said.

The report was welcomed by Gov. Jan Brewer’s office, which said in a written statement that it reflects the fact that “state government, working with local utilities, made a significant difference in reducing energy costs for Arizona residents, businesses, school districts and local governments.”

The statement also noted that research being done at the state’s universities could “pave the way to help us save even more in the future.”

“The energy news for Arizona keeps getting better and better,” Brewer said in her statement.