Regional News Briefs

2012 Archives


Nevada PUC Approves DSM Plans for Nevada Power and Sierra Pacific Power

On December 20, the Public Utilities Commission of Nevada (PUCN) approved demand-side management (DSM) programs that will be implemented by Nevada Power Company (NPC) during 2013-15. The PUCN also approved a revised set of DSM programs for Sierra Pacific Power Company (SPPC) during 2013. NPC’s approved plan calls for spending $147.5 million over three years with projected electricity savings of 409 GWh per year and a peak demand reduction of about 263 MW from the three-year effort. SPPC’s revised plan calls for spending $6 million on DSM programs in 2013, with projected savings of 34 GWh per year and a peak demand reduction of about 5 MW. SWEEP participated in the dockets that resulted in these approvals and helped to convince the PUCN to reject deep cuts in program funding and energy savings that were advocated by the Commission Staff and the state’s Bureau of Consumer Protection. NPC and SPPC are subsidiaries of NV Energy that together serve 1.15 million customers. NPC operates in southern Nevada and SPPC in northern Nevada.


Scottsdale, AZ: First Southwest City to Make the 2012 International Green Construction Code Mandatory

Builders with new projects in the downtown zoning district of Scottsdale, AZ, are now required to design and construct their new buildings in accordance with requirements for energy, water, and resource efficiency, as well as sustainable site development and building owner education in the 2012 IGCC. LEED certification is offered as an alternative for compliance.

The Scottsdale city council adopted 2012 building codes—including the IGCC and International Energy Conservation Code—on December 4, 2012, making it the first city in the southwest to adopt the IGCC as mandatory for some buildings. The decision is expected to create about 2,500 multifamily projects built to IGCC or LEED requirements in 2013, says Anthony Floyd, Scottsdale’s Senior Green Building and Energy Code Consultant.

Three other locales in the southwest had previously adopted the IGCC: Kayenta Township, AZ, the first tribal community in the country to adopt the IGCC as voluntary; Phoenix, AZ, the first city to adopt IGCC as voluntary; and the City of Fort Collins, CO, which based its mandatory green building code amendments in part on IGCC. 


SWEEP Hosts Ninth Annual Southwest Energy Efficiency Workshop

Policies, programs and customer participation were the focus of the 2012 SWEEP workshop, held in Santa Fe, NM, and sponsored by Public Service Company of New Mexico (PNM), New Mexico Gas Company and Xcel Energy.  The workshop featured a wide variety of presentations by prominent regional and national energy efficiency leaders, including utility, industry, regulatory and non-profit spokespeople.?

The annual workshop provides an opportunity for attendees to learn the latest on demand-side management programs from the region's utilities, get updated on energy efficiency potential, and learn about emerging energy efficiency programs and technologies.  This year, Howard Geller, executive director of SWEEP, kicked off the event with a presentation of the major new SWEEP report, The $20 Billion Bonanza, which details best practice programs and benefits of energy efficiency in the Southwest.



EPA Update: Arizona and Nevada Lead the Nation in Percentage of Highly Energy Efficient New Homes

Arizona and Nevada led the nation with 54% and 48% respectively of new homes that are ENERGY STAR certified, according to the program’s latest annual report of market indices for 2011.  The report documents the percentage of new homes that are constructed to the rigorous ENERGY STAR New Homes program requirements as compared to typically constructed homes for each state.  In addition, 43% of new homes in Colorado, and 31% of new homes in New Mexico were ENERGY STAR certified. Nationally, ENERGY STAR New Homes account for 26% of all newly constructed homes in 2011, up from 21% in 2009. More information can be found at the ENERGY STAR website:



Two Southwest Building Departments Recognized with a National Award for Energy Efficiency Efforts

Two of three recipients of the national Excellence in Energy Code Compliance awards this year are in the Southwest. Sponsored by the Institute for Market Transformation and the Global Buildings Performance Network, the awards were presented October 23 at the annual meeting of the International Code Council in Portland, Oregon to recognize individuals, cities, counties and states that have used innovative and cost-effective strategies to increase compliance with building energy codes.

The building department of Pima County, Arizona, was recognized for its "beyond code" programs that familiarize builders with the latest advances in energy-efficient building techniques, and for forging partnerships that enabled builders in southern Arizona to achieve the building energy code goals for new buildings with limited financial resources.

Gil Rossmiller, chief building official with the Town of Parker, Colorado, was recognized for his leadership in increasing code compliance and championing high standards for energy efficiency in buildings in the Town of Parker. Rossmiller was the only recipient of an award for individual excellence.

Residents of Pima County and the City of Parker benefit by having some of the most energy efficient new homes in the nation.


New SWEEP Study: Energy Efficiency Finds That Best Practice Energy Efficiency Programs Could Yield Enormous Benefits for Households and Businesses in the Southwest

Utility programs that save energy could create an economic windfall of $20 billion for six southwestern states, according to a major new study released by SWEEP, The $20 Billion Bonanza: Best Practice Utility Energy Efficiency Programs and Their Benefits for the Southwest.  The report shows that every dollar invested in energy efficiency programs returns more than two dollars in savings on business and household utility bills. It is available along with state-by-state findings at

The report finds that it is feasible to achieve a 21% reduction in electricity by the year 2020 from energy efficiency programs implemented 2010-2020.  Reaching this target would save the equivalent of electricity used by 4.6 million typical households in the southwest and require an investment of $17 billion.  The investment would be split between utilities and their customers and yield a resulting savings on energy purchases along with public health benefits of $37 billion—or a net savings of $20 billion, the study concluded.

The report identifies the most effective utility energy efficiency programs across the country and analyzes the costs and benefits of implementing these programs in the southwestern states of Arizona, Colorado, Nevada, New Mexico, Utah and Wyoming.  The report includes descriptions of the programs, state-by-state analysis, and a roadmap that policymakers can follow to achieve the 21% energy savings goal and benefits by 2020.

“Policy reform is critical to realizing the $20 billion bonanza,” Geller said.




Five Colorado Businesses Receive Industrial Energy Efficiency Awards

Encana's natural gas processing facilities near Rifle and the MillerCoors Brewery in Golden shared top state honors for industrial energy efficiency, and were named Partners of the Year in an awards ceremony held at the Colorado state capitol on September 27. The ceremony was held to recognize the achievements of participants in the Colorado Industrial Energy Challenge (CIEC), a program cosponsored by SWEEP and the Colorado Energy Office. Three other companies-Anheuser-Busch in Fort Collins, Carestream Health in Windsor, and Corden Pharma in Boulder-were recognized with Excellence in Energy Efficiency awards at the event.

The five companies receiving awards this year achieved total energy savings of 1,490,000 MMBtu/yr from 2010-2011, which is enough energy to provide for about 10,000 Colorado households, and saves the companies a total of about $7.6 million per year.

"The top companies this year achieved dramatic improvements in energy efficiency through management support, team-work, setting meaningful goals and planning," said Neil Kolwey, the CIEC program manager. "We look forward to seeing similar achievements from other companies next year."


SWEEP Releases Report on Utility Financing Programs for Industrial Energy Efficiency

SWEEP has released a new report, Utility Financing Programs for Industrial Customers, which encourages utilities to offer financing programs to their industrial customers. 

Obtaining capital for energy efficiency projects is one of the greatest obstacles for industrial firms to improve their energy efficiency, and utility financing programs can help. To develop a successful industrial financing program, utilities first need to offer good quality technical assistance to help industrial customers identify and evaluate energy efficiency opportunities.  Sources of capital for utility programs include tapping the utility’s energy efficiency funds, partnering with banks or other third-party lenders, and using credit enhancement options to leverage the utility’s funds.  Successful utility programs can set up loan repayment through either on-bill financing or by outsourcing the service to a third-party administrator.  

There are currently only eight utility programs in the U.S. that offer financing for industrial customers, two of which have achieved impressive, cost-effective energy savings for the past six years or more. The report profiles successful industrial financing programs offered by Wisconsin Focus on Energy, Alliant/Wisconsin Power & Light, National Grid, Southern California Edison, and Connecticut Power & Light.



SWEEP Issues Recommendation on How to Determine Net Energy Savings from CHP Systems

There is growing interest in and support for Combined Heat and Power (CHP) projects by utilities in the Southwest and elsewhere. This leads to a challenging question: how much electricity savings should a utility get credit for when it provides financial support for customer-based CHP projects as part of its demand-side management (DSM) programs? In response, SWEEP has prepared a short paper that presents our recommended methodology for determining such energy savings.


SWEEP Staff Present Two Papers at 2012 ACEEE Summer Study on Energy Efficiency in Buildings

SWEEP staff members Howard Geller and Ellen Zuckerman each presented a paper at the ACEEE Summer Study held August 12-17 in Pacific Grove, CA. One paper, titled “Utility Energy Efficiency Programs in the Southwest: 2012 Update”, reviews the DSM budget, energy savings and energy efficiency policy trends affecting electric utility energy efficiency programs in each southwest state. The second paper, titled “No Longer Background Noise: Resource Planning When Energy Efficiency Really Matters”, reviews the treatment of energy efficiency in resource planning in Arizona, Connecticut and the Pacific Northwest. The entire proceedings from the conference are now available from ACEEE (



Colorado Energy Efficiency State of the State Report Issued

The Energy Efficiency Business Coalition (EEBC) has issued a new report that estimates over 14,000 jobs are supported by the energy efficiency industry in Colorado. The report also reviews energy efficiency legislation that has been adopted in the state, ranks all electric and gas utilities as well as counties in the state based on their energy efficiency policies and programs, and recommends ways in which Colorado could make further progress towards enhancing energy efficiency. SWEEP is a founding member of the EEBC.


PowerSaver Residential Retrofit Financing Program Launches in Four Southwestern States

As of July 1, 2012, HUD expanded the PowerSaver residential retrofit financing program to Colorado, Arizona, Utah and New Mexico.  Backed by the FHA, PowerSaver offers homeowners up to $25,000 for loan terms as long as 20 years with interest rates from approximately 5%-7% for single family, owner-occupied properties.

PowerSaver loans typically are secured by a second mortgage or deed on the home that is subordinate to any existing first mortgage, unlike Property Assessed Clean Energy (PACE) loans which have the first position for payoff because they are linked to property taxes. A major benefit of participating in this program rather than a home equity line of credit or refinance is that currently the closing costs are paid through a federal grant.

A wide variety of energy efficiency and renewable energy measures are eligible for PowerSaver loans, including insulation, duct sealing, upgraded HVAC systems and more. All work must be completed by a contractor certified under the PowerSaver program and the work must meet Building Performance Institute (BPI) standards. A list of certified contractors in each state, along with information on specific eligible measures, is available at




Southwestern Public Service Company Receives DSM Plan Approval

The New Mexico Public Regulation Commission (PRC) has approved a new DSM plan for Southwestern Public Service Company (SPS). The new plan calls for spending $10.0 million on 12 programs with the goal of saving about 41 million kWh per year, equivalent to 1.1% of SPS’s projected electricity sales in 2012. The DSM plan was presented to the PRC as an uncontested stipulation. SWEEP contributed a number of elements to the plan as the stipulation was negotiated including addition of LED lamps to the Home Lighting program, higher incentives for some measures in the Business Comprehensive program, and addition of waste-to-energy and Combined Heat and Power projects to the business program. SPS, a subsidiary of Xcel Energy, serves approximately 115,000 customers in southeastern New Mexico.   


Fifth-Year Anniversary of Utility Energy Efficiency Law Emphasizes Success of Citizen and Business Participation

It’s been five years since the Colorado legislature passed HB 07-1037, which directed the Colorado Public Utilities Commission to develop energy efficiency goals and incentives for the state’s investor-owned utilities, Xcel Energy Inc. and Black Hills Energy Corporation.  As a result, the electric utilities invested $166 million in efficiency programsfor their business and residential customers.  That investment was worth it. 

“Energy efficiency is the quiet champion of the New Energy Economy,” said Howard Geller at a 5-year anniversary event held June 7 in Denver.  “The simple actions of hundreds of thousands of Colorado homeowners and businesses changing out light bulbs, upgrading appliances and air conditioning equipment and the like has yielded the cleanest, most cost-effective supply of energy today.” 

Utilities saved enough electricity to power 100,000 homes for a year, kept 1 million tons of carbon dioxide out of Colorado air, and helped to create new jobs in the energy efficiency industry.  Xcel Energy estimates that Colorado has one less new power plant – or the equivalent – thanks to the energy efficiency programs they have implemented in the state.


SWEEP Releases Report on Best Practices in Utility Industrial Energy Efficiency Programs

SWEEP has released a new report, “Southwest Utility Industrial Energy Efficiency Programs: Highlights and Best Practices,” aimed at helping utilities improve their energy efficiency programs serving industrial customers. Better industrial efficiency programs can help utilities achieve their overall energy savings goals while also increasing industrial customer satisfaction.

The industrial sector accounts for 30% of total energy consumption in the U.S. and 26% of total electricity consumption. There are many opportunities for cost-effective energy savings in the industrial sector, which are sometimes overlooked as utilities focus on programs for commercial and residential customers.  The key recommendations in the report include offering a variety of programs for industrial customers, including technical assistance, custom and prescriptive incentives, and self-direction programs.

The report profiles industrial energy efficiency programs offered by Pacificorp / Rocky Mountain Power (RMP) in Utah and Wyoming; Xcel Energy / Public Service Co. of Colorado (PSCo); Black Hills Energy; Public Service Co. of New Mexico (PNM); Xcel Energy / Southwestern Public Service Co. of New Mexico (SPS); Arizona Public Service Co. (APS); Salt River Project (SRP); Unisource / Tucson Electric Power (TEP); and NV Energy.


Rocky Mountain Power Ramps Up Energy Savings in 2011

Rocky Mountain Power, a subsidiary of PacifiCorp and the principal electric utility in Utah, reports that it increased the electricity savings from its energy efficiency programs to 244.5 GWh per year in 2011, a 21% increase over energy savings achieved in 2010. Savings from 2011 programs were equal to about 1.1% of the total retail electricity sales by the utility. Savings from both Home Energy Savings and Commercial/Industrial Custom Retrofit programs increased significantly in 2011. Rocky Mountain Power also reported that energy efficiency programs implemented in 2011 were more cost effective than those implemented in 2010, with a benefit-cost ratio of about 2.2 under the Utility Cost test.



SWEEP Executive Director Publishes Chapter in Book

Howard Geller, SWEEP's Executive Director, has published a chapter on energy efficiency in a new book titled Governing to Win: Enhancing National Competitiveness Through New Policy and Operating Approaches. The book was organized and edited by the IBM Center for the Business of Government. Geller's chapter, "Three Strategies to Increase Energy Efficiency" discusses appliance and equipment efficiency standards, utility energy efficiency programs, and increasing energy efficiency within the Federal government.


Colorado Adopts Legislation to Deregulate the Sale of Electricity for Charging Electric Vehicles

On May 3, 2012, Gov. Hickenlooper signed HB 1258, important legislation which helps pave the way for electric vehicles (EVs) in Colorado by deregulating the sale of electricity for charging them. In its final version, the bill repeals the statutory monopoly for utilities to sell electricity for the purpose of charging EVs. The bill authorizes anyone to resell electricity at retail to charge EVs without having to receive regulatory approval from the PUC. The bill also allows the generators of electricity to sell power to charge EVs at the location where the power is generated without seeking PUC approval. The bill applies the net metering rules to on-site generators, but modifies the rules to allow the on-site generating capacity to be sized based on both historical kWh use and expected demand when EV charging is added to the historical load for the property. SWEEP worked closely with legislators, electric utilities, and environmental organizations to draft, negotiate and win passage of the bill.



Arizona Public Service Company to Help More Customers Save Money and Energy

Arizona Public Service Company (APS) customers will see additional opportunities to reduce their utility bills thanks to the Arizona Corporation Commission’s unanimous adoption of the utility’s 2012 energy efficiency plan. On March 27, 2012, the Commission voted to approve APS’s plan, which will deliver annual energy savings that exceed 480 GWh per year and provide about $195 million in net economic benefits for households and businesses. The 2012 programs are targeted to achieve annual energy savings equivalent to 1.75% of retail sales, thereby meeting the requirements of Arizona’s Energy Efficiency Standard. SWEEP advocated for approval of the 2012 Plan in comments before the Arizona Corporation Commission.


Arizona’s Two Largest Regulated Electric Utilities Deliver More than 1.25% Savings in 2011

Arizona’s two investor-owned electric utilities, Arizona Public Service (APS) and Tucson Electric Power (TEP), report that their energy efficiency programs achieved annual energy savings exceeding 1.25% of retail energy sales in 2011. Indeed, recently filed reports describe annual energy savings of 537 GWh per year, lifetime energy savings of 5,224 GWh, and societal net benefits of $137.2 million, all as a result of programs implemented in 2011. These results are significant because they represent the second time Arizona’s investor-owned utilities have achieved greater than 1% energy savings in a single year. SWEEP applauds the 2011 achievements of APS and TEP.


Nevada Utilities Commission Cuts Funding for NV Energy’s DSM Programs

On March 15, the Public Utilities Commission of Nevada (PUCN) approved substantial cuts in funding, relative to previously approved levels, for NV Energy’s demand-side management (DSM) programs in 2012. DSM program budgets in Nevada are first approved as part of a three-year DSM plan but are also subject to annual review. In total, the PUCN approved about $57 million in DSM funding for Nevada Power Company and Sierra Pacific Power Company in 2012, roughly equal to DSM program spending in 2011 but nearly 38% below the previously approved budget for 2012. The cuts were made in large part due to the severe economic recession, reduced electricity demand, and excess generating capacity in the state in the short run. SWEEP objected to reducing funding for cost-effective DSM programs and helped prevent even deeper cuts.


Xcel Energy Achieves Higher Energy Savings in 2011

Xcel Energy, the main electric utility operating in Colorado, reports it achieved about 312 million kWh per year of net electricity savings from energy efficiency programs implemented in 2011, 24% more savings than was achieved from programs implemented in 2010. The energy savings from 2011 programs exceeded the savings goal set by the Colorado PUC by a wide margin. Xcel implements a wide range of energy efficiency programs aimed at helping its residential, commercial and industrial customers improve energy efficiency and reduce their electricity consumption.   Programs implemented in 2011 had a benefit-cost ratio of 2.85 on average, leading to about $197 million in net economic benefits for Xcel’s customers over the lifetime of energy efficiency measures installed in 2011.


SWEEP Releases Report on Improving Energy Code Compliance

SWEEP has released a new report aimed at improving energy code compliance in local jurisdictions. The report, “Energy Code Enforcement: Best Practices from the Southwest,” identifies an eight-step approach, which could help municipalities and states comply with the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act requirement to achieve 90 percent compliance with energy codes and standards, compared with current compliance rates of only 10-70% nationwide.

The report is based upon the successful compliance practices in the Town of Parker, Colorado, and describes how the process can be replicated for large and small municipalities. Additional case studies are included from Salt Lake County, Utah; the City of Westminster, Colorado; Pima County, Arizona; and the City of Las Vegas, Nevada. Each community is implementing a specific practice to improve code compliance in one area of building construction.

Among the recommendations in the report is the simultaneous training of building inspectors, builders, and trades, while phasing in the requirements of a new code or standard. The report is written and presented in sixteen concise pages for the busy building code official, builder, and building tradesman.



SWEEP Launches Southwest Home Performance Collaborative

In an effort to strengthen home performance programs in the southwestern states, SWEEP has launched a new initiative to facilitate collaboration among diverse home performance program stakeholders.  Participants in the Southwest Home Performance Collaborative include representatives from major utilities, state and local governments, and nonprofits in our six-state region as well as representatives from national organizations including the Department of Energy, Housing and Urban Development, national laboratories and relevant consulting firms.

There are currently five active Home Performance with ENERGY STAR programs in our region:

  • In Arizona, program sponsors are the Arizona Public Service Company and Salt River Project with sponsorship in process from the Tucson Electric Power Company.
  • In Colorado, the program is sponsored by Xcel Energy and the Four Corners Office for Resource Efficiency, a southwest Colorado nonprofit,.
  • In Nevada, the program is sponsored by the nonprofit, HomeFree Nevada.
  • In Utah, the program is sponsored by the Utah State Energy Program.

In addition to these whole home programs, numerous utilities, state and local governments, and nonprofits offer single measure rebates and discounted energy audits for home improvements.

The Southwest Home Performance Collaborative provides a platform for home performance program managers and stakeholders to share best practices and lessons learned to overcome challenges to successful program implementation.  Information is shared via monthly webinars with discussions on topics such as program design for utility cost effectiveness tests, contractor training and management, and marketing and outreach strategies. 


Utah Recognizes Industrial Energy Efficiency Leaders

On February 15, during the Utah Governor’s Energy Development Summit in Salt Lake City, seven top industrial companies were recognized for taking aggressive steps to reduce energy consumption as members of the Utah Industrial Energy Efficiency (IEE) Program. Amanda Smith, Director of the Utah Office of Energy Development, presented certificates of recognition to representatives from ATK, BD Medical, Lifetime Products, O.C. Tanner, Simplot, Skyline Mines, and Varian Medical Systems. Each of these industrial firms has made a voluntary commitment to improve energy intensity at their Utah facilities by at least 10% over five years.

The Office of Energy Development’s Utah IEE Program helps industrial companies gain greater expertise in energy efficiency and reduce their energy usage. Through a partnership with Nexant, Inc., Southwest Energy Efficiency Project, ETC Group, and Utah Clean Energy, the program is designed to help industrial companies make voluntary commitments to reduce their energy intensity and emissions, provide training and technical assistance as they implement energy-saving efforts, and provide recognition for energy efficiency successes that maximize facility performance.



SWEEP Releases Report on ARRA-funded Energy Efficiency Projects in the Southwest

On February 6, SWEEP released “Innovative Energy Efficiency Projects Implemented by Local Governments in the Southwest,” a new report profiling municipal and county projects made possible by funding from the 2009 American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA).  The unprecedented increase in funding for energy efficiency as a result of ARRA was distributed by the US Department of Energy (DOE) to local governments through the State Energy Program (SEP) and Energy Efficiency Community Block Grants (EECBG).  ARRA funding, often leveraged with other funding sources and new finance mechanisms, enabled local governments to make significant investments in energy efficiency infrastructure, policy, and program development which will help save energy and money for years to come.  This report presents case studies of eight such innovative local projects in the Southwest region.



Strong Funding Maintained for Rocky Mountain Power DSM Programs

A Settlement Agreement has been filed with the Utah Public Service Commission to modify the tariff rider used to fund DSM programs implemented by Rocky Mountain Power (RMP) in Utah. Given that the utility has collected revenues in excess of DSM expenditures in the recent past, RMP initially proposed reducing the DSM tariff rider from 3.6% to 2.4% of customers’ bills on average. SWEEP and its partner Utah Clean Energy objected to this proposal, arguing that the proposed tariff rider level was inadequate to support new or enhanced DSM programs and potential increased program participation. Following negotiations, an agreement was reached among all parties to drop the tariff rider to 3.2% instead of 2.4%. The Settlement Agreement is unopposed and is expected to be approved by the Utah Public Service Commission.