Arizona Utilities Pay Business Customers to Conserve Energy


Americans have complained loudly over the last year or two about the higher prices we pay for gasoline, natural gas and home heating oil, and our political leaders have put forth solutions they hope will, at the very least, appease voters as they head to the polls. In the midst of all of this rhetoric, though, we hear very little of the word "conservation." Most Americans know that conservation should be a part of the plan to lessen our use of fossil fuels, but we're not so good at following up on that knowledge. Conservation equals sacrifice in our minds, either in terms of levels of material comfort, or in heavy investments needed to conserve more energy.

While those mental equations don't paint a completely correct picture, business owners who want to use energy more efficiently in their plants or offices usually do require a fairly sizeable initial investment. In Arizona, two of the state's utlitity companies have announced programs to create incentives for businesses in the state to use energy more efficiently by helping offset some of those up-front costs. The Arizona Public Service Co.'s new Business Solutions Program pays customers rebates for implementing certain efficiency measures, while Salt River Project is expanding a program that encourages business owners to install solar power arrays on their buildings. Both programs aim to support businesses wanting to adopt conservation measures, but wary of the extra costs:

These two programs are designed to help lessen the up-front costs businesses incur when making energy-saving moves that ultimately help the utilities. If companies are using more energy-efficient lighting and cooling systems, for example, APS and SRP don't need to create as much power. Companies benefit in the long run with lower energy bills.

Experts say businesses increasingly are looking to take energy-conserving measures, but such efforts still are in their infancy. Incentives, they say, help to get more businesses thinking about energy conservation.

According to the U.S. Government's Energy Information Administration, more than half of all energy consumption in America comes from the commercial and industrial sectors. Slightly less than half comes from the residential and transportation sectors.

Sustainability expert Jim Buizer claims that utilities are acting responsibly by taking a long-term view on natural resources. We'd certainly like to think that, but, of course, they stand to save a lot of money, too, if customers either don't use as much power, or produce it themselves through renewable generation. That's OK, though -- we hope many more utilities figure out innovative, and simple, ways to save themselves and their customers money by cleaning up power generation, or just using less of it. ::MSNBC