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Letter to the Editor: The ACC Needs to Stand Up to SRP & for Ratepayers

Salt River Project is known for great customer service --- friendly representatives, willingness to work with customers who have fallen behind on their bills, programs to encourage water conservation, energy efficiency, and electric vehicles.

However, SRP's reputation doesn't mean it deserves a pass when it rushes to spend nearly $1 billion in customer money without adequately exploring options, including options that may cost significantly less. At its April 12-13 meeting, the Arizona Corporation Commission needs to stand up and protect SRP customers by sending the utility to the drawing board to seek and review proposals to meet the anticipated energy demand.

Why should the Arizona Corporation Commission stop SRP from moving forward with a nearly $1 billion expense for 16 new gas units? While there are many answers to this question, the fact that SRP failed to seek bids in this instance and has yet to provide estimated monthly bill impacts stand out to us.

Requesting bids or proposals is commonplace in government and in business, particularly for large expenditures. Through an RFP, an entity solicits opportunities to meet a specific need and ensures the expense is sound --- similar to how a household may compare choices before purchasing a refrigerator or a dishwasher.

Unfortunately, SRP failed to request and adequately evaluate other options to meet electricity needs or spend less money --- options such as increasing energy efficiency and battery storage or reducing the proposed number of gas units. As a result, unless the Arizona Corporation Commission sends SRP to the drawing board, SRP ratepayers may well be paying more than they should for years and years to come.

While it is reasonable to assume a nearly $1 billion expense will impact ratepayers, we don't know what the estimated impacts of SRP's nearly $1 billion proposal on consumers is because they aren't telling us. Despite repeated efforts from policy makers, advocates, and customers, SRP has only said there will be no rate increases for six years – which doesn't mean monthly electric bills aren't going to be higher given other costs the utility charges. Case in point: Arizona Public Service and Tucson Electric Power are currently seeking to get their ratepayers to cover the costs of recent volatile gas prices.

SRP has yet to adequately explain why they think adding 16 more gas units and the significant public health and safety risks gas poses is necessary. SRP has failed to adequately address why they didn't look at options. SRP has failed to provide a response to what its customers can expect to pay each month for the nearly $1 billion expense. Yet, SRP has rushed the process.

Fortunately, the decision on whether to allow SRP to spend nearly $1 billion in ratepayer money on 16 gas units is now with the Arizona Corporation Commission. The Arizona Corporation Commission should use its authority by scrutinizing SRP, sending them to the drawing board, and protecting SRP ratepayers. SRP doesn't deserve a pass on a nearly $1 billion expense.

Written by: Diane E. Brown, the Executive Director of the Arizona PIRG Education Fund, an organization that conducts research and education on issues in the public interest. More information can be found at
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