After 40 years, the state of Arizona has ended its energy program. The State Energy Program (SEP) was developed in 1975 by the U.S Department of Energy. While the program continues to operate in other states across the nation, the Governor of Arizona, Doug Ducey, and his administration shut down the program to cut on overhead costs.
What the SEP does
The State Energy Program provides financial and technical assistance to states through formula and competitive grants. There are four goals of the program. The first, is to increase energy efficiency in order to reduce energy costs and consumption for consumers, businesses, and government. The second, is to reduce reliance on imported energy. Improving the reliability of electricity and fuel supply and the delivery of energy services is the third goal. The last goal is to reduce the impacts of energy production and use of the environment. With the SEP providing great energy goals through state funding, why did Arizona decide to cut the program?
Arizona government ends the program
Cuts began in February of this year, when the Governor fired Jan Brewer’s director of Governor’s Office of Energy Policy, Leisa Brug. Following this event, Governor Ducey closed the Governor’s Office of Energy Policy in the month of May. During this time, six workers were laid off, while seven others were transferred to the Department of Administration. Of those seven individuals, five began employment on the State Energy Program while the other two worked to help low- income residents tap into federal funds for home repair, through the use of federal weatherization assistance. Just recently, in the beginning of November, the two workers working on the weatherization assistance program were transferred to the Housing Department, while the remaining five from the State Energy Program were let go.
Government gives their reasons
As stated before, Governor Ducey believes that shutting down the program would cut the overhead of an office with large staff. The money could, instead, go towards grants for staffing and eliminate some of the duplication. Spokesman for Ducey, Daniel Scarpinato, stated that functions could be better absorbed in existing agencies. Over the past several years, the Energy Office utilized millions of federal dollars into energy- efficiency programs. In 2012, the SEP won $715,000 from the U.S. Department of Energy to help with waste and water- treatment facilities with energy- efficiency projects. With the state of Arizona receiving a large amount of federal funding each year, many are disappointed to see the program go. Many are worried about how this program ending will affect low-income families throughout the state. Others stay hopeful that the two remaining workers who were transferred to the Housing Department will continue to work on the weatherization program, and keep it a priority in their new position.
These cuts were actually unexpected, especially since a December 2nd meeting was scheduled with the community energy program manager and energy- conservation contractors. It is unfortunate to see such an impactful program go, but Arizona residents remain hopeful that the Governor and state officials know what they are doing. The cuts to this program could mean benefit somewhere else, which can be a good thing.