The APS rate case, expected to be voted on Tuesday, Aug. 15, will include not only the subject of a rate increase but also whether people who refuse use of a “smart meter” will pay a fee, among other issues. (Tim Wiederaenders/Courier)
Originally published Sunday, August 13, 2017 at 06:05a.m.
Arizona Public Service has been center-stage lately — from news of the ongoing subpoenas seeking APS disclosure of alleged 2014 election influences to its complex rate case, which the Arizona Corporation Commission is expected to vote on Tuesday, Aug. 15.
While the former — ACC investigations/subpoenas pushed by Commissioner Bob Burns and opposed by the other four members — bounces between courts over who has what power, the rate case is much more straight-forward.
Though still convoluted, it boils down to what we will end up paying.
The APS rate case has shifted in recent months, including a partial settlement between APS and other parties, in which APS agreed to a rate hike of $6 per month on average for residential customers, rather than the $11 it sought in its 2016 application. Yet, the case is also expected to determine the monthly basic service charge and rates; if new customers get to choose their initial rate plan; and if residential and small business customers will have control over their energy use.
Central to this is the new customer plan. APS originally asked that residential customers use a demand rate that charges a fee based on the highest hour of electricity use during peak hours of the month.
The question is if the ACC will impose the part of the settlement — or offer its own amendments — that would force new APS customers to pick either a demand rate or a time-of-use rate, where it costs more to use electricity during peak hours, for at least 90 days. After that, APS would offer a basic, flat-rate plan that charges a monthly service fee and flat rate for electricity, regardless of time of use.
Some consumer groups oppose the lack of choice for new customers.
If that’s not complex enough, then there’s the debate over time-of-use rates and peak use charges.
Basically, APS wants to expand the number hours considered “peak use,” and charge accordingly. It’s akin to if you want to do a load of laundry in the afternoon, when your air conditioning is working hardest, you should have to pay more.
What happened to charging for how much electricity we actually use?
Also at issue is solar power. The ACC decided in late 2016 net metering would go away. Now, APS customers who have roof-top solar would be paid for the power they generate based on how much it costs the utility to market that power.
Also, charges for basic service could go up, people who refuse use of a “smart” meter could have to pay a fee, and low-income customers could get a break, among other considerations before the ACC.
It is all confusing, and that is why we have the Corporation Commission.
Still, we need the commissioners to be in our corner, and not worried about subpoenas and which trumps which: a judge from Maricopa County or the Citizens United campaign finance precedent.
On Tuesday, commissioners, give the smallest among us a voice and put electricity customers first.