Thursday, September 24, 2009

Energy Shavings

electric shave

Over $2.7 billion in formula grants are available under the Energy Efficiency and Conservation Block Grant (EECBG) Program. The U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) awards these federal taxpayer funds to units of local and state government, Indian tribes, and territories to develop and implement projects to improve energy efficiency and reduce energy use and fossil fuel emissions in their communities.

To date, Arizona has been awarded over $28 million in future EECBG projects.

Arizona is trending strongly towards a black energy future because of a decades-long imposition of rate schedules that repress the investment value of solar energy and energy conservation measures in the commercial sector. The rate schedules shift an inordinate burden of energy costs into the captive small business sector; where then the costs are passed through to Arizona consumers. This effectively creates a hidden, regressive tax. Because of the inequity of Arizona’s Renewable Energy Standard and Tariffs (REST) rules, wealthy homeowners have the ability to more easily escape rising energy costs, while less fortunate renters are left to carry a doubly inordinate burden of rising energy costs piled upon a hidden energy tax.

If conscientious renters wish to support clean energy, they are further insulted by incurring a surcharge for such energy from the electric utilities. Furthermore, the densely packed renters are subsidizing the higher energy costs that result from the outspread infrastructure built to satisfy the developers, builders and owners of the houses dispersed across the distended sprawl of the Phoenix metropolitan area.

The DOE states, “Transparency and accountability are important priorities for the EECBG program and all Recovery Act projects.” The DOE can award tens of millions of taxpayer dollars to a misbuilt megapolis that is fundamentally and structurally inefficient and unsustainable. Yet, Rate Crimes, one of the few entities attempting to bring transparency and accountability to energy policy in our nation’s sunniest state, does not qualify for even the tiniest grant.

Sunny Arizona remains a final remnant of repressive electric rate schedules that induce extravagant consumption. The utilities profit from increased consumption. State and local governments gain from the concomitant increase in (regressive) tax revenue. The utilities magnify energy costs in the captive small commercial sector which must consequently increase their charges to consumers for goods and services. Again, the state and local governments gain from increased sales taxes. There are no real brakes on this machine. Ineffectual deceptions such as the Residential Utility Consumer Office (RUCO) serve only to disguise the dim reality. Arizona citizens serve to move money into the pockets of politicians and into the bank accounts of the shareholders of privately held utilities.

Now, federal taxpayer funds are being injected by the DOE into this cryptic and broken system. Until the Arizona rate schedules are repaired, yet another source of public funds will be shaved off.

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