Thompson Works To Rein In Ratepayer-Funded Incentives To Contractors

Thompson Works To Rein In Ratepayer-Funded Incentives To Contractors

By Daniel Stefanski |

A first-year Corporation Commissioner continues to fight for Arizona ratepayers.

Late last month, Republican Corporation Commissioner Kevin Thompson issued a press release to announce that he had “amended several provisions in a recent proposal for UniSource Energy’s (“UNS”) Demand Side Management (“DSM”) Energy Efficiency (“EE”) program.” The release explained that these amendments “eliminated or revised several proposals” and “reigned in ratepayer-funded incentives to contractors and sales consultants and focused on prioritizing programs that provided greater value to residential customers and target low-income customers.”

Thompson educated readers on what DSM entailed, writing that “DSM is a ratepayer-funded surcharge that finances Commission-approved EE programs, which are implemented by UNS and other utilities, with the goal of reducing energy load and promoting energy efficiency.” According to Thompson’s information, “the utility spent just over $2.7 million in ratepayer funds on DSM EE programs during 2022.”

The release revealed that the “proposal (in front of the Commission) called to vastly expand the existing UNS EE budget, with nearly $5.8 million in ratepayer-funded programs up for consideration.”

In a statement, Thompson said, “Before increasing ratepayer surcharges to blindly expand energy efficiency programs, it’s important to address inefficiencies in existing programs, eliminate financial rewards for private entities, and ensure residential and low-income customers receive adequate representation in approved programs.”

The Republican commissioner specifically looked for “ratepayer funded incentives weaved throughout the DSM EE programs.” Thompson’s announcement noted that “many of the proposed programs provided incentives and rebates to third parties with financial stakes in the adoption of certain measures or the installation of certain products.” The proposal was devoid of “several incentives and payment reward programs” after Thompson’s due diligence, including:

  • Incentives to homebuilders to install energy efficient devices in certain new homes
  • Bonus incentives to sales consultants
  • Marketing stipends for third parties to promote certain programs
  • Project incentives to contractors

The proposal had another layer to it, per Thompson, with “the majority of proposed new programs targeting commercial and industrial users.” Thompson was concerned about these programs because “the majority of UNS’s customers are residential and the proposals were of limited value to the public.”

Commissioner Thompson added, “Commissioners must look out for the ratepayer, and we can’t haphazardly spend millions of dollars in ratepayer funds when there are concerns with the way current programs are being deployed. Residential customers shouldn’t be subsidizing purchases for hotel room HVAC units, electric forklifts, appliances for new homes, and truck refrigeration units.”

Daniel Stefanski is a reporter for AZ Free News. You can send him news tips using this link.

Thompson Scores Pay Raises, Increased Staffing For Corporation Commission

Thompson Scores Pay Raises, Increased Staffing For Corporation Commission

By Daniel Stefanksi |

Arizona Corporation Commissioner Kevin Thompson announced the successful inclusion of top-line priorities in the recently signed budget for the state – negotiated between Republican legislators and Democrat Governor Katie Hobbs. While Hobbs apparently failed to incorporate some main requests for same-party officials in the Attorney General’s and Secretary of State’s offices, many Republicans around the state, including Thompson, were more than pleased with their budget advances.

In an Instagram post, Thompson revealed the following budget gains for the Corporation Commission:

  • “$6M in new dedicated funds to increase staffing levels and increase employee salaries by 10%.
  • Another $7M in one-time funding to replace the Commission’s outdated business filing computer system, which will help improve the overall customer experience for Arizona’s 1.3M active LLC’s and another 578,000 active corporations registered in our state.”

Thompson also ensured that these wins were fiscally responsible, adding that the funding was secured “using existing Commission funding streams, incurring no additional expense for the taxpayer.”

The freshman commissioner noted the difficulty of this accomplishment, sharing that “many scoffed at the idea of our ambitious supplemental budget request” due to the fact that “the Commission hadn’t received new dollars from the legislature in years.”

This action was a priority of Thompson’s – and his fellow freshman Commissioner, Nick Myers – since they were sworn into office in January. In his inauguration speech, Thompson promised to pursue increased funding for Corporation Commission staff, saying, “With that, I want to immediately work to bring our staffing levels back to where they should be, and secure the livable wages our hardworking public servants deserve. We can’t continue to do more to service the public with less and expect our employees to have quality of life in this economy. I will work with our Executive Director and legislature to seek an increase in our annual budget and improve salaries for our employees. We have to keep pace with other state agency employee pay.”

Not only did this funding not add any more dollars to the state’s general fund, it will certainly help Arizona ratepayers and those who interact with the Corporation Commission – as Thompson highlighted in his recent social media post: “One of the significant consequence of being understaffed and under-resourced is that Arizona has consistently ranked in the bottom tier nationally in processing utility rate cases—it takes fifty percent longer to process a rate case in Arizona – resulting in delays to build new generation and replace critical infrastructure, driving up ratepayer costs and further destabilizing our regulatory and investment climate.”

Thompson also praised Myers, who ran as a team with him in 2022, for his co-labors in securing new funding for the Commission. Thompson’s and Myers’ November victories kept Sandra Kennedy and Lauren Kuby from those seats, which would have given the Democrats control of the Commission. According to an official Corporation Commission release, House and Senate Appropriations Chairs David Livingston and John Kavanagh were applauded for their leadership roles in making the funding a reality during the legislative process.

Commissioner Thompson has quickly made himself into a reliable conservative voice and figure for Arizona Republicans, which hasn’t been too hard due to the scarcity of statewide Republican officials. Still, Thompson’s record at the Mesa City Council and (now) at the Arizona Corporation Commission could lead to a significant promotion in the 2026 state contests – especially as he works with his Republican colleagues to stop Democrats from transforming Arizona’s energy policies.

Daniel Stefanski is a reporter for AZ Free News. You can send him news tips using this link.