After months of waiting, the Arizona Corporation Commission ruled that those who have opted out of having a smart meter on their home will have to pay a fee.
The 4-1 decision, which came Tuesday, Sept. 12, states that those opting out of having an Arizona Public Service smart meter will pay a one-time fee of $50 and a monthly fee of $5. Those who chose to opt out prior to this decision will not have to pay the one-time fee but will have to pay the monthly one.
The fees could go into effect as soon as Sunday, Oct. 1.
“Twenty-nine stakeholders representing a broad range of customer interests reached a groundbreaking agreement on our first rate review in five years, including on AMI optout,” APS said in a statement to the Sedona Red Rock News. “The hearing officer recommended adopting the consensus agreement’s AMI opt-out terms. Advanced meters allow customers to have more control over their energy use, have the potential to reduce outage times and offer environmental benefits. Today’s decision is important to have resolved for all of our customers.”
Last month, the ACC approved an agreement to resolve APS’ rate review. However, the ACC decided that a decision on the opt-out fees should be separate from that of the overall rate case. Under the approved agreement, the typical monthly bill for residential customers will 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 ACC approved the previously-established agreement with modifications, but the changes do not affect the overall economic terms of the agreement. The rate adjustment took effect Aug. 19.
“Arizona’s energy consumers are the clear winners here because this agreement enables investment in a smarter, cleaner energy infrastructure, gives customers more choice and control through new rate options, and continues Arizona’s solar leadership,” Don Brandt, APS chairman, president and CEO, said in a statement.
Prior to the ACC’s decision on the rate case, Assistant Chief Administrative Law Judge Teena Jibilian issued a 427-page recommendations to the ACC on the case.
“The rates, terms and conditions of the settlement agreement are just, fair and reasonable and in the public interest, and should be adopted as set forth in the settlement agreement,” Jibilian wrote.
The city of Sedona was one of more than two dozen stakeholders that intervened on behalf of its citizens. It did so not 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.
However, Jibilian determined that discussion regarding smart meter fees should take place at a separate meeting. That date has yet to be determined.
On Aug. 29, Jibilian issued a 175-page recommendation in the form of an Opinion and Order. In her report, APS states that its standard meter is the AMI [smart] meter, and that AMI technology is “a foundational component of a modem electrical grid and critical for the company to plan for and continue providing safe and reliable service.”
APS, according to the document, asserts that the AMI opt-out program proposed in the settlement agreement is in the public interest. And, that the optional provision of a non-AMI digital meter provides a reasonable way to meet the desires of those few customers who do not wish to be served with a standard meter, while preserving the significant benefits of AMI for APS’ customers.
Sedona resident Warren Woodward, who spoke before the ACC, disagrees with the argument that the $5 monthly opt-out fee is a substantial discount from the real costs to serve customers who choose to opt-out due to foregone economies of scale. Woodward argued that the interests of residential customers, small commercial customers and solar customers in regard to the opt-out program were not represented by any other interveners in this proceeding.
“Mr. Woodward asserts that benefits of AMI meters, such as providing usage information and usage alerts to customers, operational cost savings from remote meter reads, voltage control, reduced carbon emissions, and reduced energy theft and fraud, are unsubstantiated,” the document states. “This is because APS did not provide a dollar amount for those benefits, and because APS’ witness did not know how many customers access their available usage information.”