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Published on February 22, 2024
Arizona Public Service Seeks Rate Hike Amid Concerns Over Solar Charges and Grid InvestmentsSource: Arizona Public Service

Arizona Public Service (APS), the state's largest utility provider, has proposed a rate hike that could jack up home utility bills by an average of 11%. According to KTAR News, APS President Ted Geisler downplayed the hike, estimating an impact of 7.5-8.5% for most customers, or roughly $10-$15 more per month, above the 2018 rate baseline.

However, a report from 12 News suggests customers could see bigger increases, with a figure of 15.5% being floated, along with an extra charge for solar users. In the lead-up to the crucial vote on the proposal by the Arizona Corporation Commission, consumer advocates have expressed strong concerns. "It can really hurt folks on social security alone," said Brendon Blake of AARP to 12 News, hinting at a burden that extends beyond the headline percentage increase.

Amendments to the original rate hike plan—proposed by Republican commissioners—include a "grid access" fee targeting rooftop solar customers, which would tack on an additional 15% above the standard rate increase. The proposed amendments also call for the end to APS's Solar Communities Program, along with a "Bring Your Own Device" pilot initiative involving home energy storage technologies. Furthermore, a representative for the solar industry cited by 12 News states that these steps would continue a pattern of moves counterproductive to solar industry interests begun in 2023.

Amid conflicting analyses and stakeholder discussions, Administrative Law Judge Sarah Harpring, who oversaw the hearings, submitted a plan that would allow APS to collect a maximum profit margin of 9.55%, up from the current 8.9%. "After abundant and conflicting analysis from experts in the field," Harpring wrote that her recommendation is designed to "maintain and improve APS’s financial integrity" and to "enable APS to attract capital," according to the 12 News report.

APS, on its end, has defended the rate hike as necessary to maintain service reliability and to fund infrastructure already in place. The utility's president, Ted Geisler, told KTAR News, "This is about really updating rates to reflect the costs of service today and ensuring that we can begin recovering the cost for infrastructure that’s already in place so that we can continue to invest in the grid and prepare for the future." The decision from the Arizona Corporation Commission on the proposed rate increase is anticipated shortly after public commentary during their meeting.

Concerns have been raised by opponents of the hike about the longer-term implications of moving away from renewable energy programs and technologies, like home battery storage systems, at a time when climate organizations underscore the urgency of reducing fossil fuel emissions to avert climate extremes. One thing seems clear—this decision could have far-reaching effects for Arizona's energy landscape.