Natural gas utilities will need to achieve annual savings of 6% by 2020 under a new set of rules approved Tuesday by the Arizona Corporation Commission (ACC). The state regulators want the utilities to greatly expand their energy efficiency programs and measure their effectiveness against percentage savings on retail energy sales each calendar year.

The utilities can apply both demand-side management (DSM) and renewable energy resource technology (RET) programs, an ACC spokesperson said.

One-third each of the annual savings can come from energy-efficient building codes and energy efficiency appliance standards, respectively, under the ACC's new rules. The utilities also can count the savings from individual residential and business customers who adopt various efficiency practices and technologies to driven down their energy use.

Finally, the ACC will allow the utilities to count the savings coming from RET projects that displace gas use by customers.

Starting in June next year and in every year ending in an odd number, utilities will be required to file an implementation plan with the ACC, describing how they intend to meet the standard for the next two calendar years. The initial implementation plan will be due within 30 days of the effective date of the new rules.

Under Arizona's process for implementing ACC actions, the commission approved rules now go to the Arizona Secretary of State's Office for approval, and then on to the state attorney general for endorsement before implementation.

Tuesday's ACC action follows by a few weeks the commission's approval in July of energy efficiency rules for electric utilities. Those requirements call for the electrics to achieve a savings of 22% by 2020.

ACC Chairman Kris Mayes said that in requiring the gas utilities to reduce overall use in the state by 6% "Arizona continues to move toward a more sustainable and energy-efficient future." Commissioner Sandra Kennedy said she hoped the rules would help "every household and business receiving gas utility service to lower their monthly bills."

©Copyright 2010 Intelligence Press Inc. All rights reserved. The preceding news report may not be republished or redistributed, in whole or in part, in any form, without prior written consent of Intelligence Press, Inc.