On Nov. 2, the Arizona Corporation Commission in a 3-2 vote cut the Arizona Public Service base rate revenue by $19 million.
“Overall, most residential customers — more than 70% — will see their bills stay flat or decrease slightly,” said Yessica Del Rincon, communications consultant for APS. “The adjusted customer rates will take effect in the December 2021 billing cycle.”
The decision also requires APS to invest in communities affected by the closure of the Four Corners coal power plant, to shorten its time of use hours and provide a public education program to explain the complexities of their rate structure.
APS has threatened to sue the ACC over its decision.
“Our most important responsibility is to our customers, who depend on APS for the energy infrastructure that will power Arizona’s prosperity into the future,” wrote the company on its website. “Today’s short-sighted decision by the Arizona Corporation Commission ignores that crucial responsibility. Though customers will see some near-term benefits, the overall outcome will raise costs for customers in the long run and put our state’s economic future at risk — leaving us no choice but to take legal action.”
APS had asked the ACC to increase rates to recover the cost the company incurred installing the Environmental Protection Agency’s required pollution control measures on the coal powered Four Corners Power Plant. The plant, on the Navajo Nation, uses coal provided by the Hopi Tribe.
“Without Four Corners, APS would not have been able to meet customers’ energy needs during the hot summers of the last three years, which might have led to rolling blackouts like those Californians have experienced,” said Del Rincon.
The Four Corners plant will ultimately close in 2031 to comply with tougher carbon emission laws. However, the closure of the plant will deal a significant financial blow to the tribes. To help, the ACC decision requires APS to pay for the tribes to transition away from a coal-based economy.
“We have committed to provide $26.1 million in company funds for financial aid and economic development support to the Navajo Nation, Hopi Tribe and communities around the Cholla Power Plant,” said Del Rincon.
Customers will see shorter on-peak hours, but not until 2022. The decision shortens the hours from 3 p.m. to 8 p.m. to 4 p.m. to 7 p.m. Del Rincon explained it will take the company some time to make the change as staff must reprogram meters.
“In addition, our rate comparison tool and rate comparison messaging on our bills will be unavailable for a period of time following this change while we collect new usage data,” said Del Rincon. “Customers will receive communications about this change before it occurs.”
To prepare for electric vehicles, APS must also “create a new residential electric vehicle charging rate with a year-round super off-peak period at night for EV drivers to incentivize charging when system utilization is lowest,” said Del Rincon.
To ACC decision requires APS to create a public education program to make sure customers understand the complex rate structure.
“APS is developing a Customer Education and Outreach Plan (CEOP) that covers all aspects of APS’s rate plans in collaboration with Arizona Corporation Commission staff, the Residential Utility Customer Office and any other interested parties,” said Del Rincon.
Before APS launches CEOP, the ACC must approve the education program.
Del Rincon said there’s more to the decision “that customers will soon hear more about.”
She then listed the other changes:
• Simpler rate plans: Customers will have three residential plan choices with new names that make it easier to understand how each option works.
• More choice and flexibility: All customers can choose between a fixed charge plan or a time-of-use plan and switch at any time, no matter how much energy they use each month.
• More time to pay: Customers will have an additional week to pay their bill each month, now due in 21 days rather than 14.
• Two more off-peak holidays: Customers on a time-of-use plan will enjoy Christmas Eve and New Year’s Eve among the other lower-cost off-peak holidays.
• Any customer who’s having trouble paying their bill can always reach out to APS online, at aps.com/assistance, or by phone at 1-800-253-9405.
Customers can learn more at www.aps.com/updates.