In a 5-0 vote on Thursday, the Arizona Corporation Commission approved new rate increases for roughly 58,000 customers in southeast Arizona. Residential ratepayers in the Sulphur Springs Valley Electric Cooperative (SSVEC) utility territory will face a 150 percent increase in fixed charges over the next four years – ultimately paying some the highest residential fixed charges in the country.
High fixed charges are harmful to consumers because they reduce customer control over monthly bills and increase overall rates for customers with the lowest levels of consumption – putting individuals with low and fixed income at a disproportionally higher risk. High fixed charges also undermine the financial benefits of rooftop solar, energy efficiency and energy conservation for families and individuals. Clean energy, equity, consumer and environmental advocates across the board oppose egregious increases in fixed charges like those seen last week in Arizona.
The Commission’s decision approved an increase to the monthly fixed charge for residential customers from $10 to a whopping $25 per month, phased in over four years. This level of fixed charge increase is a full $10 greater than what was approved in the recent UNS Electric rate case.
Despite the hike in fixed charges, there was a bit of promising news in last week’s decision when the Commission reaffirmed its commitment to grandfather existing solar customers into current net metering rates, rejecting SSVEC’s request to limit grandfathering to customers who signed up prior to April 15, 2015. The ACC also emphasized their “default policy” moving forward will only consider solar rate changes for future customers.
In addition, consistent with the decision in the UNSE rate case this summer, the Commission postponed a decision on SSVEC’s requests to end retail rate net metering and impose solar specific charges. These issues will be held open until after the ongoing Value of Distributed Generation (DG) docket concludes. The Commission is expected hold a vote on the Value of DG docket this December.