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Efficiency efforts by Arkansas electric, gas utilities on track: monitor

Boston — The independent monitor tracking the energy efficiency efforts of Arkansas' electric and natural gas utilities told the state's Public Service Commission in newly filed testimony that the utilities "continue to make excellent progress toward achieving their energy savings and participation goals."

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Katherine Johnson, president of Frederick, Maryland-based Johnson Consulting Group, said in testimony posted on the PSC website Tuesday that while "the performance for individual programs vary significantly, overall the [energy efficiency] programs have led to significant energy savings statewide." She said program satisfaction among participants "remains high, while free ridership rates are relatively low across the entire [energy efficiency] portfolio."

According to the independent monitor's summary report for 2014, dated Monday, Entergy Arkansas' energy efficiency programs achieved 205.3 GWh of energy savings last year, or 3% more than the utility's goal of 199.3 GWh, while Southwestern Electric Power Co. achieved 30 GWh of savings, or 7% more than its goal of 28 GWh.

Oklahoma Electric & Gas, which serves a much smaller number of electric customers in Arkansas, achieved 13.8 GWh of savings from its energy efficiency programs in 2014, or 95% of its goal of 14.6 GWh, the report said.

Among gas utilities, CenterPoint Energy achieved 75% of its goal, while SourceGas achieved 114% and Arkansas Oklahoma Gas achieved 148%.

For both electric and gas utilities, the 2014 energy savings realized from energy efficiency programs were more heavily weighted toward residential and agricultural customers than the utilities had expected.

Among electric utilities, residential and agricultural customers accounted for 41% of the energy savings, compared with the 32% the utilities had anticipated. Commercial and industrial customers, which had been expected to account for 68% of the savings, accounted for only 59%.

Among gas utilities, C&I customer had been expected to account for 57% of energy savings but only accounted for 51%; residential and other smaller customers accounted for 49%, higher than the 43% that had been expected.

Arkansas in late 2010 was the first state in the South implement a program that establishes energy efficiency goals for electric and gas utilities and provides financial incentives to utilities that meet or exceed those goals. Regulators in Louisiana and Mississippi later adopted very similar programs for utilities in their states.

Also on Monday, Arkansas' electric and gas utilities filed the elements of -- and budgets for -- their proposed energy efficiency plans for 2016-18 with the PSC. In each utility's case, the plans reflect mostly minor changes to reflect lessons learned this year, in 2014 and in previous years.

For example, Entergy Arkansas, the state's largest utility, told the PSC that it plans to end its Energy Star New Homes Program and to implement a new Commercial Midstream Lighting Program.

In testimony, Gabe Munoz, a project manager at the utility, said the new homes program "has not been able to provide energy savings as planned because of the economic downturn since the program's inception in 2011."

--Housley Carr,
--Edited by Jason Lindquist,