County News

A decision regarding a rate increase request by Arizona Public Services is expected to take place this month.

It’s then that customers will know what kind of an increase in their monthly bill they can expect to see. Late last week, Assistant Chief Administrative Law Judge Teena Jibilian issued her 427-page recommendation on the case, in which APS was seeking its first rate increase in five years.

“The rates, terms and conditions of the settlement agreement are just, fair and reasonable and in the public interest, and should be adopted as set forth in the settlement agreement,” Jibilian wrote.

The Arizona Corporation Commission will meet to approve, reject or modify the judge’s findings. ACC spokeswoman Angie Holdsworth said a date has not officially been set but the commission could meet as early as Aug. 15 or 16.

Under the yet-to-be approved agreement, the typical monthly bill for residential customers would increase 4.5 percent, or about $6 per month. APS originally requested a revenue increase of 7.96 percent, or about $11 per month.

The proposed demand charges will now be optional, as opposed to the mandatory demand charges that APS originally asked for in their application. In addition, under the agreement APS would refund to customers $15 million of surplus energy efficiency program funds over the first year that new rates are in effect.

The city of Sedona was one of many stakeholders that intervened on behalf of its residents. It did so not only in regard to the proposed rate hike, but also on fees for those residents who opted out of having their analog meters replaced with smart meters.

“Twenty-nine formal stakeholders, representing consumer advocates, environmental groups, business customers, industry groups, national and local private rooftop solar organizations, seniors, school officials and limited-income advocates, reached a ground-breaking agreement on our rate review,” APS said in a statement. “If approved, it will bring about more solar, a smarter energy infrastructure, a cleaner energy mix and more options for customers. The hearing officer’s recommended order continues to move Arizona in that direction.”

Under the proposed agreement, those who now choose to replace their smart meter with an analog will be charged a one-time conversion fee of $50. Those who have already done so will not be charged that fee. However, those who do have analog meters will be charged a $5 monthly meter-reading fee. Originally, APS had requested a $15 monthly fee.

In the judge’s findings, she determined that the smart meter fee issue should be a separate discussion, decided at a later date.

“I am not at all certain what that means, other than that the smart meter issue will be isolated and ruled on in its own opinion and order,” City Attorney Robert Pickels wrote in an email to the Sedona City Council. “When that opinion and order will be issued and filed in the docket is anyone’s guess. I would assume that it would have to be in advance of any public meeting to discuss the current opinion and order, which addresses all other issues that were litigated in the rate case.”


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