Diane Brown

Diane E. Brown

This month marks three years since the Arizona Corporation Commission had the chance to be superheroes for APS ratepayers, but instead voted to approve an unjustified and unreasonable rate hike.

Since then, many APS residential and small business ratepayers across APS’s territory have been feeling the impacts of that flawed decision on their monthly electric bills and have been looking for elected officials to come to their rescue and save the day.

Despite heroic efforts, particularly by Chairman Burns and Commissioner Kennedy, the recent rate case proposed by APS is almost double what they were previously granted. If approved, an estimated 95% of households with APS can expect a rate increase of between 3%-6%. Outraged? Concerned? Ready to cry? Read on — this isn’t over.

In the last month, the Commission held public comment sessions on the proposed APS rate hike. And what they heard is largely what we’ve been hearing: informed and passionate APS ratepayers want the Commission and their utility to prioritize ratepayers over shareholders; stop unfair utility rates and charges; and improve customer communication.

While each utility, including APS, has a right to recover costs to operate, maintain, and improve or build necessary infrastructure, the Commission needs to approve expenses charged to ratepayers. Unlike the last rate case, all commissioners appear to be paying close attention. If commissioners truly have seen the light, they will stand up and stand firm to protect ratepayers by:

• Reducing APS’s return on equity. Simply put, more money in the pockets of ratepayers and less money in the pockets of shareholders.

• Reducing the time-of-use on-peak hours from a five-hour period to a three-hour period. A shorter TOU time frame is preferable no matter the circumstances; however, it is particularly important now as more individuals work from home or have lost their jobs and are at home due to COVID-19. More households are likely to opt into a TOU plan if they can manage the time frame and save money.

• Reducing the monthly service charge. Arizonans should be charged primarily on the amount of electricity they use, not on mandatory costs which customers must pay no matter how little electricity they use. Reducing the monthly service cost can provide customers more control over their electricity bills and offers a greater incentive to save energy and money for households and businesses.

• Requiring a Commission-approved comprehensive education and outreach plan. The plan should clearly explain rate plans and terms — such as demand charges — and integrate opportunities to save money through limited income programs, energy efficiency offerings, and other customer tools.

• Advancing policies to hold APS more accountable and for customers to receive a greater benefit such as performance based ratemaking and increased opportunities to save money through energy efficiency.

APS ratepayers: Let’s send a loud Shazam! message that APS ratepayers say No! to another unjust and unreasonable rate hike and No! to unfair utility charges. Let’s make sure this time commissioners use their power to defend ratepayers.

Diane E. Brown is the executive director of the Arizona PIRG Education Fund. Email dbrown@arizonapirg.org to weigh in on the APS rate case or learn more.

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