crowd

The crowd at Thursday’s meeting of the Arizona Corporation Commission in Lake Havsau City was standing-room only. The commission was meeting to discuss proposed electricity rate changes.

The massive crowd at Thursday’s Arizona Corporation Commission meeting spilled into the lobby and down the parking lot, and they weren’t happy.

Four commission members traveled to Lake Havasu City to hear what citizens had to say about UniSource Energy Service’s proposed new rate structure based on demand that some attendees said was an unfair billing method.

The Commission announced that given the overwhelming turnout it would hold a second meeting in Lake Havasu City to accommodate the larger crowds. A date and location will be set for the meeting, expected to happen within the next two weeks.

Rates will not change until the commission gathers all public comments and votes on the proposal.

“There will be no final determination of whether there will be changes in rates, how much rates may change, or what the rate design will look like until after a final vote of the Arizona Corporation Commission,” Commission Chairman Doug Little said.

As citizens approached the podium to address commission members on Thursday night, their comments were of confusion, concern and frustration as they face potentially higher electric charges.

“I gave up a career to work for the school district as a technician, getting half my pay, so I can be there for my kids,” Havasu resident Matt Marten said. “This scares me. I’m not here just because I’m angry about it. I’m here because I’m scared that there’s going to be months coming if this passes that I don’t know what I’m going to do.”

What would change?

UniSource is proposing a rate structure that would take effect in 2017. The rate structure would measure a customer’s peak electric use in a given time, what they call a demand charge. UniSource said the higher demand charge could be offset by lower usage rates in place during other times.

“Some parties have presented testimony that demand charges have certain benefits that demand charges have certain benefits and allow customers to reduce their bills,” Little said. ”Other parties oppose demand charges, stating that they are confusing and will increase bills.”

The new rate structure will inadvertently reduce discounts to solar customers, who sometimes invest thousands of dollars to install home solar systems.

One of those solar customers is Julie Zemojtel, who spent $40,000 on a solar system last fall after spending months researching the best way to cut electric costs. Under UniSource’s current proposal, people who purchased solar systems before June 1, 2015, would be grandfathered in to a three-part rate.

“We are most concerned about the lack of knowledge we had in September when we started this process and finished and went live in November regarding this rate change,” Zemojtel said. “I would have never in a million years, being as fiscally responsible as me and my family are, would have purchased the system.”

UniSource Supervisor Joseph Barrios said UniSource is waiting to hear on recommendations on how to best move forward with solar customers.

“[The unit would] still pay for itself and customers could still save on their bills, it would just be different and may take a little longer,” Barrios said.

According to the proposal, Unisource is changing the rate structures for residential customers to achieve a requested $15.1 million increase in non-fuel revenue. That revenue would be used to compensate resources during peak demand periods. He said UniSource sometimes cannot generate resources to cover that amount of demand, so it has to purchase power.

“The company’s request, if approved, would increase the average monthly bill over a residential customer using 664 kilowatt hours by $5.25, a 7.6-percent rate increase,” Little said. “The bill would go from $68.96 to $71.24.”

The proposal would also double annual assistance for customers on limited incomes to $1.3 million, which would offset the increased rates to those who qualify.

What isn’t changing?

The proposal does not call for electric meters on appliances, as some people believed.

“There’s really no special equipment, you don’t have to install meters on your appliances, it’s simply a matter of being aware of how you’re using energy,” Barrios said. “If you can change your behaviors or change the way you energy, you can work that charge.”

Barrios said UniSource would provide customers with their demand data along with educational materials as they transition to the new rate structure.

Other charges on customers’ bills will not change, including current tiered rates, natural gas surcharges and time-of-use rates.

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(8) comments

Choice in power Providers

I believe the simplest solution is to add competition to the markets. SB1506 was introduced to give the counties a choice in providers by allowing them to introduce a second provider to the county. This bill gives local control back to the county and it's residents. www.prepareaz.com was set up to organize such a fight. The utility companies as a whole have refused to discuss this in any stake holder forum. More articles on this are listed from WMI & AZ Journal. Sign up to keep informed of the progress and how you can help.

TM

The energy companies are loosing millions due to solar customers and other things like energy efficient air conditioners. The utility is fighting to keeps rates high and keep solar out. Someday we will buy electricity like we buy phone service. Now we are held hostage to one energy supplier. This will change sooner than we think. Utilities will be a thing of the past just like the old phone companies.

tomgarven

I agree TM. Maybe its time for us to start thinking about opening up our franchise to more providers.

noprivatedata

Those in LHC who have loaded up on solar panels are about to get a nasty surprise,
just like the folks who live in Phoenix. This company must not ever be allowed to base
it's billing on the juice used on the hottest day of the year. This is outrageous!

tomgarven

I totally agree noprivatedata. Over the years I have installed extra insulation in my attic, added dual pane Low E glass windows, installed a high efficiency AC unit, never run the pool pump between the hours of 2:00 pm and 8:00 pm and now I will most likely be subject to a Demand Fee for being someone who has all along tried to conserve as much energy as possible.

And I certainly haven't seen UniSource going out of its way to help customers conserve energy or educating of the public how to prevent Demand Response Fee's.

tomgarven

Thank you Lake Havasu City residents for turning out. While my health prevented me from attending I am very proud of those who were able to attend and speak out. Hopefully my health will improve so I can attend the next meeting which will be our last chance at having our concerns heard by the Commissioners.

myideas

Reading a utility bill anymore requires a degree in accounting and finance.

BLAZO

Electricity matters!

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