The Arizona Corporation Commission, in a 4 to 1 vote, with Commissioner Robert “Bob” Burns dissenting, passed phase 1 of Unisource Energy Company’s rate change application. In a compromised amendment, Commissioners agreed to Unisource’s proposal to raise the base fee to $15 from the current $10 fee.
For those who opt-in to the electric company’s time of use plan the base fee will only go up to $12. “Back in April, Unisource dropped its demand charge proposal for all customers. While this was a victory for ratepayers, the implementation of raising the base fee for customers is not justified or warranted,” Supervisor Buster Johnson stated.
Unisource’s original application asked for a customer base charge increase of $10. The $5 increase was a compromise between Unisource, the Corporation Commission, and other concerned parties. Unisource Energy serves about 90,000 customers in Mohave and Santa Cruz County.
“A $5 increase would equal more than $450,000 more a month for the utility company,” Johnson said. “That is a $5.4 million a year increase!” Johnson stated that he saw nothing that would warrant this 50% increase. “We should not be satisfied with this compromised deal!” Johnson stated. Johnson also fears a move towards new time of use plans may end up costing residents more.
Under Unisource’s plan, current ratepayers will see a $3 savings in their base fee should they chose a time of use plan. New customers will automatically be put onto the plan with the option to opt-out. The plan rewards households for using kilowatts during offpeak hours and penalizes them for using kilowatts during onpeak hours. Under the current rate structure, ratepayers pay a flat rate for all hours.
“For working parents, going onto a time of use plan may be difficult. Our lives should not revolve around what hours are best for the Electric Company. Onpeak hours are going to be those hours when the kids get home from school, when dinner is being cooked, and when laundry need to be done for the next day,” Johnson stated. Uniource’s current time of use plan has onpeak hours from 2pm-8pm on weekdays.
Aside from the rise in the base fee, Commissioners approved an amendment that would raise solar customer’s rates $1.58 per month to cover additional meter costs. Unisource’s original proposal had asked for a $7 increase.
The Commissioners also said further analysis of the value of solar will need to take place before proceeding with changes to net metering. Unisource argued that postponing a delay on changes in solar customer’s rates would just be pushing the can further down the road.
Commissioner Andy Tobin made an amendment to ensure that did not happen by requiring the investigation to be done by October, and Chairman Doug Little made an amendment to expedite the value-of-solar findings to be addressed by March.