Corporation Commission Expedites the Value-of-Solar Findings in Unisource Case

Lake Havasu City, AZ – The Arizona Corporation Commission in a 4 to 1 vote, with Commissioner Robert “Bob” Burns voting no, passed phase 1 of Unisource Energy Company’s rate change application. In a compromised amendment this afternoon, 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. To read all the amendments and documentation in the case please visit:

Press Release: Unisource Drops Demand Charge Proposal for Non-Solar Customers

Lake Havasu City, AZ – In Lake Havasu City this past month, hundreds of individuals spoke out against Unisource’s Rate Proposal Case that would have implement demand charges on all residential electric bills. A proposal Supervisor Buster Johnson said could have raised residential bills by more than $30 a month. In response to the overwhelming opposition, Unisource has released a statement that they will not continue to pursue demand charges on non-solar customers. “I want to thank everyone who came out against this proposal. It is obvious that they have heard the voices of Mohave County residents,” Supervisor Buster Johnson stated. “While Unisource is dropping demand charges for all customers, they are still intending on asking the Corporation Commission for an increase in the base charge fee and to implement demand charges on new solar customers,” Johnson continued. Unisource Energy serves about 90,000 customers in Mohave and Santa Cruz County. In their proposal, they are asking the Arizona Corporation Commission to allow them to raise the customer base charge from the current $10 a month fee to $20. “This ten dollar increase would equal $900,000 more a month for this utility company,” Johnson stated. “We cannot be just satisfied with them dropping the demand charges. This increase is still left in their proposal and is still not justified or warranted. I still encourage people to file opposition against their proposal, and let them know that Mohave County residents do not want any type of unjustified increase,” Johnson continued. While non-solar customers won’t see demand charges implemented, new solar customers will see demand charges if Unisource’s proposal is approved. New solar customers would also see a change in net metering. Currently, UniSource solar customers get paid the full retail rate for excess power their solar panels send back to the grid. The proposal would drop the rate by about half, down to the rate the utility pays to purchase power from large-scale solar arrays. Mohave County’s overwhelming “no” on Unisource’s proposal was also heard by the Arizona Corporation Commission. Both Commissioners Doug Little and Bob Burns wrote letters earlier this month asking the parties involved to provide other options aside from demand charges. “Lake Havasu City is a retirement community for thousands of senior citizens and a second home to several winter visitors from across the U.S. This extra high charge will be almost impossible for residential ratepayers to control,” Supervisor Johnson said to the Commission during testimony earlier this month. Unisource’s revised proposal will still need final approval from the Corporation Commission. A decision is expected this coming June.

Supervisor Johnson Submits Opposition to Unisource’s Rate Structure Proposal

  Lake Havasu City, AZ – Supervisor Buster Johnson submitted opposition today in regards to Unisource Electric’s rate structure case before the Arizona Corporation Commission.  If approved, Supervisor Johnson strongly believes residents of Mohave County serviced by Unisource Electric could see their electric bill increase to nearly $30 a month with added demand charges.   “Not only is Unisource asking the Corporation Commission to raise the base customer charge from $10 to $20 a month, they are asking them to add a third component to residential bills known as a demand charge,” Supervisor Johnson explained.  “By doing this ratepayers will be charged based off their peak hourly energy use instead of only on their overall energy usage every month,” Johnson continued. The case before the Arizona Corporation Commission held hearings in Tucson on Tuesday and is expected to hold an open hearing in Kingman on March 31st.  The Commission will make a final decision regarding Unisource’s proposal in June.  According to Johnson, demand charges, while a commonplace for commercial and industrial customers, are rare nationwide for residential consumers.  “This extra high charge will be almost impossible for residential ratepayers to control unless they go out and spend hundreds of dollars on smart plugs and sensors to monitor activity such as how much energy output a crockpot or coffee maker is producing every hour,” Johnson stated.  “Tying residential usage to the highest hourly energy use during a billing period does not make sense,” Johnson continued. In Johnson’s letter to the Commissioners, he recommended that the Corporation Commission reevaluate the cost structure in relationship to alternative energy.  “In 2006, the Commission required electrical utilities to obtain 15% of their retail generated energy from renewable resources by 2025,” Johnson explained.  The Commission’s 06 ruling also required that the utilities obtain 6% by 2016.  “By doing this, the Commission forced electric companies to use solar energy which is one of the most expensive forms of electricity out there right now,” Johnson explained. According to research provided by the US Department of Energy, the cost of solar energy averages around 5.8 cents per kilowatt-hour.  With the price of natural gas currently down, traditional electricity averages 3 to 4 cents per kilowatt-hour and nuclear energy averages 2.5 to 3 cents. “The 15% requirement is putting a financial burden on electric companies as they rush to meet this deadline,” Johnson stated.  “If the Commission is going to demand that a certain percentage of electricity come from renewable energy, they should let the electric companies use the cheapest form out there which right now is clean nuclear energy.  These companies shouldn’t be forced to only choose the most expensive which right now is green energy,” Johnson continued. “On top of that, more folks are turning to solar to generate power as well as other means to save on electrical costs.  If the Corporation Commission would relook at their 2006 ruling and lower state’s Renewable Energy Standard and Tarrif requirement, the burden on electrical companies would be lowered resulting in … Continue Reading →