The city of Sedona is one of several dozen entities throughout the state that have filed paperwork to intervene in regard to Arizona Public Service’s first rate hike in five years.
Sedona’s intervention mostly surrounds proposed fees for those who opted out of having a smart meter nearly three years ago.
For now, things are in a bit of a holding pattern.
A hearing on the rate case before the Arizona Corporation Commission — which has the final say on proposed rate increases by utility companies — was set for March but has been postponed until April to give more time for submitted testimony on the matter.
Meanwhile, a settlement discussion initiated by APS began late last month and was scheduled to be completed yesterday. Sedona City Attorney Robert Pickels said the purpose of this is to bring all the parties together and see if there is common ground that can be found, which would eliminate the need to appear before the ACC in spring. APS gave presentations as to the need for the rate increase but Pickels said APS made it known that they are willing to make reasonable concessions.
Once these meetings are concluded, a comprehensive settlement proposal will be drawn up. All the intervening parties will then have a chance to review it and determine whether or not they agree to the terms. If not, it will then go before the ACC.
Pickels said there are nearly 50 interveners that include industries, professionals, labor unions, individual rate-payers and three cities including Sedona. Each has its own reasons for intervening and in Sedona’s case it’s in regard to APS proposing to charge both one-time and monthly fees for those who have, or choose, to opt out of having a smart meter on their home.
“Most interveners will select one or maybe a series of issues that they want to advocate for or against,” he said.
Sedona is also intervening in regard to demand charges, which is a complex system, he said. In recent years, APS has had thousands of volunteers using the demand charge system but Sedona, as well as others, oppose it being mandatory.
“All the parties appear to be coming to the negotiating table in good faith and by that willing to entertain some type of compromise in order to find a comprehensive resolution that is amicable,” he said. “This would eliminate the commission [ACC] from having to decide the issues on everyone’s behalf.”
He said in many ways this process has been a bit of an eye opener for many, including himself.
“To see the mechanics of how the rate case works and to understand the interest the commission has in terms of the rate payers as well as the perspective and needs of the utility — and balancing those — is a very interesting,” he said. “It’s refreshing to know that all perspectives are considered during this process. It’s not simply a matter of a large-scale utility coming in and imposing their will on the rate payers.”
On June 1, APS filed a rate case with the ACC, which addresses both demand charges for residential customers and the net metering program for rooftop solar customers. They’re proposing an overall monthly billing increase of 5.74 percent for all customers. However, the residential rate would increase by 7.96 percent. So, for example, if your bill is $139, it would increase to $150.
Under the current proposal from APS to the ACC, it is requesting that those who chose to opt-out and continue to use an analog meter be charged $15 a month to cover the costs of meter reading, billing and operational costs. In all, nearly 40 percent of Sedona customers chose to opt-out.
In addition, if someone chose to opt-out after the rate structure was approved, those customers would be charged a one-time fee of $50 to replace the smart meter with an analog meter.
Those who have already opted out would not be charged that $50 fee.
In a letter to APS late last year in regard to the intervention, Pickels wrote, “Assuming that the city is allowed to participate, we intend to maintain our ongoing, productive dialog with all of you at APS so that you will be aware of what the city’s position is on the various issues within the rate case as it progresses. I think that I can speak for the city organization as a whole when I say that we value both the presence of APS in our community and the services provided through the company.” BLOG COMMENTS POWERED BY DISQUS