Arizona: City council rejects opt-out fee, urges commercial and solar opt-out

From Red Rock News

APRIL 14TH, 2017

The Sedona City Council is letting its voice be heard in regard to Arizona Public Service’s proposed smart meter opt-out fee requirements.

By a unanimous vote on Tuesday, April 11, council approved a letter drafted by City Attorney Robert Pickels and signed by Mayor Sandy Moriarty. It details concerns that staff and council have in regard to APS’ rate case, which will be decided upon this summer by the Arizona Corporation Commission.

In February, after months of negotiating, APS and a group of 40 stakeholders from throughout the state, including Sedona, reached an agreement in regard to the company’s first proposed rate hike in five years.

During the settlement discussions, as a compromise the city suggested that there be a $5 monthly meter reading fee for customers who choose to opt out of having a smart meter. But support for that fee — which is a third of what APS had requested — has been met with mixed feelings.

“Some within the community believe that no monthly meter reading fee is appropriate, whereas others understand that the compromise position was a reasonable attempt to mitigate the overall impact of the rate case,” the letter states. “Regardless, the city believes that the monthly meter reading fees should be as low as is practical to ensure that opting out is not overly burdensome to customers choosing to do so.”

However, Councilman Jon Thompson requested that the letter be modified to remove the $5 reference and replace it with the council’s desire that no opt-out fee be charged to residents. A vote among the council to change the wording went 5-2 in favor of the change with Moriarty and Vice Mayor John Martinez opposed.

“I don’t believe there’s such a thing as a free lunch,” Martinez said. “Those [APS] trucks are out there and those people are out there. The insurance, liability, gas and all of that does cost money. So to me, $5 is not unreasonable.”

Council was unanimous in regard to the wording of the remainder of the letter.

APS is proposing that while resident customers have the choice of opting out, that same option is not afforded to commercial customers.

“Although APS has indicated that business turnover creates an administrative burden and that prohibiting commercial customers from opting out of smart meters would reduce that burden, the city believes that commercial customers may have the same concerns that residential customers have and the right of both customer classes to opt-out ought to be preserved.”

In regard to the analog meters, the letter states that APS has indicated that analog meters are inaccurate, are inefficient to maintain and will eventually fail altogether.

Despite those assertions, there has been no evidence provided in support of the claim that all analog meters need to be replaced immediately,” it reads. “Because there is a lack of reasonable cause for existing analog meters to be replaced, customers with analog meters should be allowed to keep those meters for the remainder of the useful life of that meter or until actual failure of the analog meter occurs.”

As for solar customers, the letter states that APS has indicated that prohibiting solar customers from opting out helps APS manage the overall energy generation system.

“APS customers who generate solar energy and opt out of smart meters constitute a very small portion of the overall APS customer base,” it states. “Hence, the significance of identifying this class of customer for differential treatment appears to have little, if any, operational impact to APS and the ability of solar customers to opt-out should be preserved.”

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