Financial Analysis of Incentive Mechanisms to Promote Energy Efficiency: Case Study of a Prototypical Southwest Utility

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Many state regulatory commissions and policymakers want utilities to aggressively pursue energy efficiency as a strategy to mitigate demand and energy growth, diversify the resource mix, and provide an alternative to building new, costly generation. However, as the National Action Plan for Energy Efficiency (NAPEE 2007) points out, many utilities continue to shy away from aggressively expanding their energy efficiency efforts when their shareholder's fundamental financial interests are placed at risk by doing so. Thus, there is increased interest in developing effective ratemaking and policy approaches that address utility disincentives to pursue energy efficiency or lack of incentives for more aggressive energy efficiency efforts. New regulatory initiatives to promote increased utility energy efficiency efforts also affect the interests of consumers. Ratepayers and their advocates are concerned with issues of fairness, impacts on rates, and total consumer costs. From the perspective of energy efficiency advocates, the quid pro quo for utility shareholder incentives is the obligation to acquire all, or nearly all, achievable cost-effective energy efficiency. A key issue for state regulators and policymakers is how to maximize the cost-effective energy efficiency savings attained while achieving an equitable sharing of benefits, costs and risks among the various stakeholders. In this study, we modeled a prototypical vertically-integrated electric investor-owned utility in the southwestern US that is considering implementing several energy efficiency portfolios. We analyze the impact of these energy efficiency portfolios on utility shareholders and ratepayers as well as the incremental effect on each party when lost fixed cost recovery and/or utility shareholder incentive mechanisms are implemented. A primary goal of our quantitative modeling is to provide regulators and policymakers with an analytic framework and tools that assess the financial impacts of alternative incentive approaches on utility shareholders and customers if energy efficiency is implemented under various utility operating, cost, and supply conditions.

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