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Should APS and SRP lower workday rates during virus crisis?

State regulator wants more from APS and others
POWER LINES
Posted at 9:20 PM, Mar 30, 2020
and last updated 2020-04-14 16:56:25-04

So you're stuck at home because of Coronavirus concerns. That means you're using more electricity weekdays during some of the highest rate electricity hours.

Because of that, some customers, and now a state utility regulator are wanting utilities to come up with a lower weekday rate.

Arizona Corporation Commissioner Sandra Kennedy is asking that each utility work with the Commission to develop and implement a "contingency tariff for situations such as the COVID-19 emergency."

It would be a consistently low rate that each regulated utility, including APS and Tucson Electric, would implement.

The Commission does not regulate SRP.

Kennedy says the rate would be used during high peak work hours, possibly 8 am to 6 pm.

And she would like to see it implemented now with higher temps, and higher A/C use just ahead.

Kennedy is asking that her request be heard at the Commission's next meeting.

I reached out to Kennedy as so many electricity customers let me know they want lower rates.

APS customers like Elisa Verhille emailed saying that people who are forced to stay home should be given the lowest off-peak rates.

Both APS and SRP announced steps to keep electricity flowing.

The include no shutoffs for inability to pay, no late fees and no penalties for switching plans.

The utilities also encourage customers to call and let them compare plans to give customers the best rates.

But, neither utility has said they are cutting their rates.

Diane Brown is with the Arizona Public Interest Research Group (Arizona PIRG).

She likes that the utilities have taken steps to help customers.

But she says all options should be on the table during this crisis.

And Brown says, even with the no shutoff and no late fee policies, customers will still be responsible for their full bills.

I took customer concerns to both APS and SRP asking them why not offer their lowest possible rates during all prime workday hours.

Neither company said they would be cutting rates or changing the hours when off and on-peak rates are offered.

APS says in part:

"We've been striving to help customers understand all the benefits of their time-of-use rates, including that 85% of the hours in a given week are off-peak, lower-priced hours....
...Our Saver Choice time-of-use plans offer the greatest opportunity for customers to save by shifting some of their larger appliance use into lower-cost hours, which are 19 hours out of every weekday and all weekend...
...For those customers spending more time at home there is more opportunity than ever to shift energy use out of the five hours on weekdays that are on-peak hours.

APS says there is financial assistance available for families and businesses affected by COVID-19.

Click here for APS saving tips.

SRP says in part:
"...our customer's current price plans are generally best suited for their needs."
...We can perform price plan comparisons for most non-solar, residential customers who have 12 months of history to help confirm that and encourage customers to contact us for that service...
...If you're home more now and using more energy during on-peak times, remember March and April on-peak prices are not much different than the lower cost, off-peak prices. If your energy consumption - because you're home more - is also increasing during off-peak hours, it's likely you're still saving money."

Click here for more SRP savings tips or call (602) 236-8888.

Wildfire is a non-profit that can also guide you to financial help with your electricity bill if you qualify.

Kennedy is also requesting that APS and other regulated companies, show the Commission exactly how they are letting customers know about the option to switch plans.

She wants them to explain to the Commission what information they will providing to customers.

Specifically, Kennedy singles out APS asking "how will ratepayers be able to tell which rate plan to switch to? Is the online rate tool providing this information to customers?