SEDONA-APS speaks on rates & meters

APS speaks on rates & meters

The city of Sedona will soon draft a letter bound for the Arizona Corporation Commission regarding proposed fees for those who have opted out of smart meters.

The wording in the letter has not been determined but it may indicate the Sedona City Council’s desire to see fees as low as possible “or some other language that neither validates the proposed fee nor prescribes a specific alternative,” City Manager Just Clifton said last week.

The decision to send a letter came during the March 29 council meeting in which the focus was on the rate case filed by Arizona Public Service.

In February, after months of negotiating, APS and a group of 40 stakeholders from throughout the state reached an agreement in regard to the company’s first proposed rate hike in five years.
The agreement, which will go before the ACC for approval this summer, includes not only the rate hike but solar power agreements and fees for those who choose to use an analog meter as opposed to the APS-preferred smart meter.

Under the agreement, the typical monthly bill for residential customers would increase 4.5 percent, or about $6 per month. APS originally had requested a revenue increase of 7.96 percent, or about $11 per month.

The proposed demand charges will now be optional, as opposed to the mandatory demand charges that APS originally asked for in its application. In addition, under the agreement APS would refund to customers $15 million of surplus energy efficiency program funds over the first year that new rates are in effect.

The city of Sedona was one of the 40 stakeholders that intervened on behalf of its residents. It did so only in regard to the proposed rate hike but fees for those residents who opted out of having their analog meters replaced with a smart meter.

Under the proposed agreement, those who now choose to replace their smart meter with an analog will be charged a one-time conversion fee of $50. Those who have already done so will not be charged that fee. However, those who do have analog meters will be charged a $5 monthly meter-reading fee. Originally, APS had requested a $15 monthly fee.

Under the agreement, APS would not begin another request for a comprehensive review of its rates before June 1, 2019, meaning three years between rate reviews.

During the council meeting, 16 residents spoke, with most expressing concern about potential health issues related to smart meters while others did address the proposed fees.

“I have actually timed how long it took the meter reader to read my [analog] meter and it’s less than one minute,” Paul Gazda said. “That comes out to $300 per hour to do an unskilled labor job of inserting a device into my meter and pulling it out. Would any of you pay $300 an hour for someone to come to your home to perform an unskilled labor job? I think $5 a month can’t be justified.”

Those with health concerns questioned why they should be penalized with a monthly fee simply because they chose not to have a device they feel is harmful.

APS spokeswoman Barbara Lockwood said the company understands and appreciates the concerns some have in regard to smart meters, which is why it supported the opt-out provision and included it in its original proposal. However, she said she couldn’t comment on any the of data shared by residents at the meeting.

Lockwood spent about an hour answering questions from council regarding several topics. Some of the smart meter information she shared included:

  • In the proposed agreement, APS’ 150,000 business customers must switch to smart meters.
  • Those who have solar will have two smart meters — one to monitor use and the other to monitor output.
  • Solar customers cannot opt out of smart meters.
  • In contrast to what has been widely reported in the past, 20 percent of Sedona residents have opted out of smart meters, not 40 percent.
  • Of APS’ 1.2 million customers, approximately 15,000 opted out of smart meters statewide, or about 1.25 percent.
  • If the ACC approves the rate case, the increase and fees could begin in July of this year.
  • Those analog customers whose meters are determined to no longer be functioning properly will have them replaced with a non-transmitting digital meter. This type of meter is similar to a smart meter in that it collects usage data but it has no modem and therefore can’t transmit that information. It must be done manually, thus requiring the $5 monthly opt-out meter reader fee.

“We do believe, generally, with all of the research that we have seen and looked at extensively that smart meters appropriately meet all the guidelines that are established,” Lockwood said.

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