Editorial: Curb power in APS rate hike

Arizona’s electricity users are facing some challenges that could mean rate increases in the near future.

First up, know that the solar industry in Arizona has reached an agreement with the state’s largest utility, Arizona Public Service (APS), that reportedly improves on a decision made last year by state regulators that ended the existing net-metering program for new solar owners. Net metering is a system in which solar panels are connected to the power grid and surplus power is transferred onto the grid, allowing customers to offset the cost of power drawn from the utility.

On March 1, APS filed a final term sheet in its latest rate case with the Arizona Corporation Commission (ACC) that would grandfather existing solar net-metering customers for 20 years, instead of the 10-year time frame established by the ACC’s December 2016 decision. Those customers would take service under full retail rate net metering and continue on their current charges for the length of the grandfathering period, according to the filing.

APS said in the March 1 statement that the utility also agreed to compensate new solar customers for their excess electricity at a credit starting at 12.9 cents/kWh. New customers would be able to choose from updated rate options that include a time-of-use rate plan that incorporates a grid access charge, or a demand-based rate plan without a grid access charge.

Next up is an APS rate increase that will be going before the commission. The utility asked the ACC in 2016 permission to raise rates by about $11 per month for the average residential customer. In the settlement, APS agreed to lower its rate increase request to $6 per month, which would still raise its annual revenue about $95 million.

Some entities, including AARP and Arizona Public Interest Research Group, are not in favor of the agreement.

In part that’s because the request involves an 87.5 percent increase of the monthly mandatory fee, which many customers would pay regardless of how much electricity they use.

While many details exist in the settlement and APS talks with the ACC, and this space does not allow for all of them, we know many people here live on low or fixed incomes.

Further, charging people for the electricity they use, rather than mandatory fees, provides the customer more control over their bills and a much more powerful incentive to save energy.

Knowing all of this, we urge residents of the Prescott area and Yavapai County to find out more.

Your chance at that is 6 p.m. Wednesday, March 29, in Clarkdale at Yavapai College’s Verde Valley Campus, Building M, Room 137, 601 Black Hills Drive.

It is a public comment session – and opportunity you won’t want to miss.

Let’s keep the power under control, in more ways than flipping a light switch.