Negative Impacts of Looser Regulation for APS

By Alexandre DuBroy

Arizona power companies are reportedly spurning customers with new policies. APS, or Arizona Public Service, is a power company that has held a monopoly on power for northern, and parts of southern, Arizona since 1884. APS is currently owned by Pinnacle West Capital Company, which is publically traded on the New York Stock Exchange. It has received extensive criticism in recent years.

 APS is regulated by the Arizona corporation commission, and that is composed of five elected officials. APS has still pressed for and received less regulation, to public dismay. APS has passed rate hikes, and its installation of “Smart Meters” is still highly controversial. APS now plans to charge solar power users more than non-solar users, reportedly because the “eco-friendly solar users are costing APS profits” (AZcentral.com).

APS recently campaigned to the corporation commission to increase rates for solar customers, and reduce or even stop the incentive for giving power back to the grid. The basis is that solar customers aren’t paying their ‘fair’ share for the power they generate. The average solar installation costs about $20,000 USD and takes years to pay off, and solar users are being forced to pay more than non-solar customers for being energy friendly.

A controversial issue regarding APS is their smart meters. Installed in late 2011, APS says that the meters have brought down customers’ bills, since they no longer need to have meter readers come onsite to measure power usage (APSmeters.com), but many customers disagree. The all-digital meters, which wirelessly transmit customers’ power usage, have received criticism.

Smart meters are meters that record power usage through a digital method. They are different than the ‘analogue’ meters that have been used successfully for decades because they do not have moving parts, only software. They also allow the data to be sent in real time to APS through built in wireless radio capabilities.

 APS customer Marc DuBroy has chronicled the increasing costs of the meter. He said, “When the smart meters were installed, we had little warning. One day, we had the analogue meters, next, the smart meters. Our power bill was higher than any year before it by a hundred and fifty dollars, with no change in habits or new appliances. The costs have remained high, with our bills over two hundred dollars. Before the meter, we had bills low as ninety dollars.” He collected data from bills dating back to 2006 and is still tracking the power usage.

Recent rate hikes, including a July measure that added 116 million dollars (Azcentral.com) to APS profits, have increased customers’ bills in addition to previous hikes. APS has received criticism for what many think is its focus on profits, but APS maintains its stance that the hikes are for necessary repairs, servicing, and to offset rising market costs.

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