Commentary: Why Tucson Should Replace TEP with a Community/Consumer-Owned (CCO) Electrical Utility

by Lee Stanfield

The recent defeat of prop 412 has now made it clear that Tucsonans do NOT like TEP and did not fall for TEP’s lies about taking big steps toward replacing coal and natural gas with climate-friendly alternatives….. lies their own charts contradict (scroll down to the chart titled “Tucson Electric Power Energy Makeup”)!
In addition to the need to move far more rapidly to alternatives like solar and wind, consider the following: 
* Why should we waste any of our money on profits for TEP investors, most of whom do not even live in the U.S…. let alone in our community. Our community leaders should be looking for ways to keep our money here in our community…. not send it away! Currently TEP’s profits are being sucked out of our community. TEP and Unisource are owned by FORTIS, Canada’s largest INVESTOR-OWNED gas and electic utility holding company. 
* In fact, Tucson would do far better to buy TEP and transform it into a community-owned electric utility. In such a system, every customer is also an owner and there are no wealthy investors to skim off profits. Profits are either reinvested into the electric infrastructure or distributed to the customers/owners 
In cities/urban areas across the U.S. this has proven to be the most cost-effective way to provide the highest quality service for utilities. Making the customers the only owners eliminates the conflict of interest inherent in a system that is privately owned. 
Homes and businesses in 2,000 communities across the U.S. — large cities like Austin, Nashville, Los Angeles, and Seattle, as well as small towns and the Navajo nation — get electricity from a public power utilityCollectively, these publicly-owned utilities serve 1 in 7 electricity customers across the U.S. and operate in 49 states (all except Hawaii) and in the territories of American Samoa, Guam, Northern Mariana Islands, Puerto Rico, and the U.S. Virgin Islands.  
After seeing that the Mayor and Council are considering Community Choice Aggregation (CCA) as a model for the generation of electric power for Tucson’s grid, I have read up on it, and unfortunately, the CCA falls far short of what a Community/Consumer-Owned  (CCO)  electrical utility will provide:  
* CCO eliminates all administrative redundancies and all investor profits, which: 
– greatly lowers the cost
– decreases the complexity of the system, making it much simpler for consumers to understand
– increases its transparency, and its accountability to all consumers
– provides consumers complete collective control over the electrical utility
– allows all consumers to collectively decide how quickly to transition to renewable sources for generation of Tucson’s electricity
* CCA creates additional layers of administrative bureaucracies (via aggregate companies) which: 
– adds the cost of salaries for the added administrative staffs
– will likely include investor profits as well, which also increases the cost
– increases the complexity of the system, making it far harder for consumers to understand
– decreases its transparency and its accountability to consumers
– decreases consumer control over the utility because it will be comprised of multiple layered components
– the speed of transition to renewables will be decided by the owners of the existing aggregates, thus limiting consumers in their control of this very important factor
The bottom line is that…. ON EVERY COUNT…. by far, the most transparent, accountable, dependable, and least expensive way to provide electricity for Tucson’s grid is via a COMMUNITY/CONSUMER-OWNED electrical utility!  
CCOs have been successfully SAVING MONEY & GIVING CONSUMERS CONTROL over their electrical utilities for cities large and small… all over the U.S.  
TUCSONANS DESERVE THE SAME SAVINGS & CONTROL… including control over how quickly we move to alternative energy! 
I urge everyone to contact the Mayor and Council and insist on a Community/Consumer-Owned electrical utility for Tucson.

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