APS seeks rate increase, change in billing

Posted at 10:38 PM, Aug 22, 2016
and last updated 2016-08-23 14:38:24-04

Arizona Public Service (APS) is looking to change how it bills customers.

The power company opened a rate case, submitted plans to the Arizona Corporation Commission (AZCC) asking to raise the basic service rates.    

Greg Bernosky with APS tells me the increase is needed to cover costs that the utility has already paid to update and maintain the electrical grid.

"We're always investing in the grid and providing the infrastructure that our customers need," he said. "A rate case is just sort of that milestone where we go in and we recover the costs for those investments that we make."

You'd likely see two changes with your bill.

First the fixed monthly service charge would go up.  

According to the filing, residential basic monthly service fee would range between $14 and $24 per month depending on what plan they choose.

But it's the second change—mandatory demand rate—that has consumer advocacy groups worried.

The demand rate would be applied to the majority of APS' customers, including those with solar panels.

Demand rates would be calculated by taking the maximum amount of power your home uses over a one hour period during designated "peak use hours"--which are billed at a higher rate.  All of a customer's monthly on peak hours would be billed based on their highest usage rather than what is actually used.

Right now those peak hours are 12 p.m. until 7 p.m. The new hours would be 3 p.m. until 8 p.m.

Diane Brown with Public Interest Research Group (PIRG) says the change is asking too much of consumers.

"We don't think it's fair to consumers to say based on my one hour, I now have to pay that same amount based on over 100 hours a month," she says.

APS says the changes are the best way for them to manage the highest demands of grid.

"It's like sizing a highway system based on rush hour—you have to build out your infrastructure to meet the maximum amount of cars that are going to be out there," Bernosky said.

Overall, APS said the changes would raise the average bill by $11 dollars per month. But, "If you actually move your energy usage outside of that 3 to 8 window you're going to save money on your bill," he says.

The utility says it is reducing the number of peak hours and has some programs that would reduce other parts of customer's bills.

Brown says there is a better way to lessen the load of the grid without forcing mandatory demand rates.

"We think there's a lot of opportunity to get there to through time of use programs and through more voluntary measures," Brown said.

The AZCC is still considering the case so there's still time to weigh in you can do that here. You'll need to include Docket Number: E-01345A-16-0036

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