In some good news for Arizona residents, thousand of Arizona Public Service (APS) customers could have their bills analyzed in a rate hike case.
The largest state utility in Arizona, the APS, won its case to collect an additional $95 million per year from taxpayers back in August 2017. In that case, the Arizona Corporation Commission voted 4-1 to reject a bid from Bob Burns to delay the rate case that would raise fees about $133 per person per year until he resolved his lawsuit against the APS.
However, because hundreds of concerned customers signed a petition protesting the rate hike, the increase is now getting a second look. The customers who signed the petition claimed that they were paying much more than what was supposed to be a 4.5% increase.
In fact, some people even claimed that they had been using less energy this winter to save money but were still paying more than they were before the increase.
In addition to feeling that they were paying more than they were supposed to be paying, many people also reported that they were experiencing wait times of 40 to 60 minutes just to get a question answered and that the answers that they did get were often less than helpful.
That’s why they felt that their elected commissioners needed to confront the APS to address the problems that so many people are experiencing.
Their goal was to get six things to happen:
- Publicly show how it will measure and report the effectiveness of its “Customer Education and Outreach Plan”.
- Publicly report a detailed budget and show actual expenditures.
- Provide ratepayers additional opportunities to save energy and money.
- Disclose the results of the 90-day mandatory time-of-use plan and how many people actually stay on that plan.
- Increase messaging on the availability of energy efficiency programs, services and tools to help customer manage their bills.
- Strengthen energy efficiency plans.
At the first hearing since the case was reopened, Administrative Law Judge Jane Rodda asked all parties to agree to how they want the case to move forward from here on out.
“I’ve never had a proceeding like this,” Rodda said. “I ask for everyone’s patience as we figure out how to proceed.”
Eventually, after hearing arguments from all parties involved, Judge Rodda will make a recommendation to the five Corporation Commissioners who regulate utilities about how to move forward.
The opening argument from APS lawyer Thomas Loquvam was that the case should only focused on Stacy Champion’s complaint to see whether or not there are any problems with the new rates. He believes that nobody else in Arizona should be allowed to come forward with a complaint.
“Are we going to be proving the case for all 200 APS customers who signed the petition, or whatever the number is?” Loquvam asked the judge. “This could become quite a hearing.”
Mr. Loquvam’s stated concern was that the APS would be unable to analyze and release data about individual rates because it would violate customer confidentiality.
In addition, he also called into question the validity of signatures that were added to the list of 1,500 people after the petition had already been submitted via Change.org.
However, Ms. Champion and her lawyer, Adam Stafford, say that people who have signed the petition have submitted hundreds of bills from the APS that show that their increase was actually higher than the 4.5% that it was supposed to be.
This hearing comes as the deadline looms for over 100,000 APS customers to select their new rate plan under the rate hike.
Either these customers choose the plan that works best for them or the APS will make the decision for them. These customers must make their decision by May or the APS will begin to systematically select their plans for them.
Customers can expect to receive a letter in the mail regarding these deadlines.
All of this began way back in 2016 when the APS originally filed its rate case. It took over a year to resolve that case, but the new case that Champion is requesting could force the commissioners to adjust their decision.
The whole process is quite complex because the APS raised its rates immediately following the commissioners’ decision back in August. Now the APS is putting people on new plans.
Although most people shouldn’t see a raise in what they’re currently paying, it depends on the plan that they choose.
For example, customers on the “time of use” plan will see a change in their peak hours. Whereas peak hours once were noon – 7:00 p.m., they are now 3-8:00 p.m. People will pay more if they don’t use less energy during that time.
Around 60,000 customers are being told at a time that they have just one month to select a new plan. However, customers can also decide to reach out to the APS and change their plan themselves.