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Utility rate requests moving forward

Posted 4/6/17

By Rusty Bradshaw

Independent Newsmedia

Rate rquests by two utilities that service the Sun Cities are moving forward.

A settlement with one, Arizona Public Service, is in the process of …

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Utility rate requests moving forward

By Rusty Bradshaw
Independent Newsmedia

Rate rquests by two utilities that service the Sun Cities are moving forward.

A settlement with one, Arizona Public Service, is in the process of being finalized, but could still result in an Arizona Corporation Commission hearing, according to Greg Eisert, Sun City Home Owners Association board member and Governmental Affairs Committee chairman.

“This may still go to a hearing, but we are not certain yet,” he said. “Even if there is a settlement in place, it has to go before the administrative law judge and then the ACC for final approval.”

The APS settlement, with a variety of stakeholders, calls for an electricity rate increase, but drops a proposal to make the utility’s demand charge mandatory for all residential customers. The demand charge has been available to customers as an option.

However, there appears to be no such settlement in the works for the EPCOR Water Co. rate request, which includes a proposal to consolidate its five wastewater districts — Sun City, Sun City West, Agua Fria, Anthem and Mohave.

Wastewater issues

“Our final documents (in the EPCOR case) have been filed,” Mr. Eisert said. “We are confident that our case is strong enough that we would prevail, if we were in a court proceeding.”

Sun City Wastewater District customers are the oldest and poorest of all of EPCOR’s wastewater customers, according to SCHOA’s initial brief. Based on the partial settlement in this case, Sun City’s monthly wastewater rates should increase at most only from $22.11 to $23.70, or 7.2 percent. Instead, EPCOR officials would impose consolidation. For Sun City residents, this would cause a massive rate increase from $22.11 to $38.98, a 76.3 percent increase. Sun City West rates, under the EPCOR request, would increase from $32.46 to $41.02, a 26 percent increase.

“EPCOR’s poorest customers would be forced to subsidize its wealthiest customers to provide them rate relief,” the brief stated. “Over the next 25 years, the total subsidy provided by Sun City wastewater customers would be $136 million.

Mr. Eisert believes EPCOR officials want the ACC to abandon time-tested regulatory principles that have been used time and time again by the commission to set rates.

“Yet, EPCOR and other pro-consolidation parties have provided virtually no credible evidence that the Commission could use to justify a consolidation decision to an appellate court as supported by substantial evidence,” as stated in the brief.

Mr. Eisert believes thare is an alternative — partial consolidation.

“Consolidate the three districts that support consolidation and leave the districts that oppose consolidation as standalone districts,” he stated. “This solution would give virtually all parties at least some of what they are seeking in this docket.”

Mr. Eisert said Northwest Valley legislators and Youngtown Mayor Mike LeVault requested corporation commissioners schedule public comment meetings in Sun City in April prior to any hearing.

“Residents need to be heard,” Mr. Eisert said. “We will use every resource we have to defeat consolidation.”

Electricity proposal

Under the terms of the APS agreement, the utility will be able to raise rates by 4.5 percent. Utility officials had requested revenue increases that would have raised the electricity rate 7.96 percent.

“There are a number of different categories of electricity use — residential, commercial, etc.,” Mr. Eisert said. “So the average bill increase could be higher than the rate increase.”

The agreement also calls for APS to refund to customers an estimated $15 million of savings through a surplus energy efficiency program through the first year of the agreement, according to the utility’s press release.

“We see this as a win for customers,” Mr. Eisert said. “APS was very generous in working with all the factions; they gave up a lot.”

According to APS officials, the agreement will pave the way for investment in a smarter, cleaner energy infrastructure; more choice and control through new rate options for customers; and continued solar leadership for Arizona.

“This agreement demonstrates what can be accomplished when people come together with a willingness to compromise and resolve complex policy issues. Consumer advocates, environmental advocates, business customers, solar industry representatives and more have agreed on a path for Arizona’s energy future. The winners are Arizona electricity customers,” said Don Brandt, APS chairman, president and CEO. “What we have is a blueprint that will bring about more solar, a smarter energy infrastructure, a cleaner energy mix and more options for customers.”