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2014 ACC Candidates Respond to Questions
2014 ACC Candidates Respond to Questions

AIC recently asked the seven candidates running for the ACC to tell us about their views on several issues facing regulation of energy, water and telecommunications utilities in Arizona.  In our request to the candidates, we told them we would post their written responses (un-edited) to the six questions on the AIC website.  

Here are the questions and their responses:

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West Valley Residents Divided on Water-Rate Remedy
West Valley Residents Divided on Water-Rate Remedy

Joe Dana, 12 News | azcentral.com 6:21 p.m. MST July 22, 2014

The Arizona Corporation Commission is seeing one of its fiercest water-rate arguments in a long time. It will have to decide whether to step in and settle a dispute it helped create.

Families in the Agua Fria Water District, which covers parts of several West Valley cities and towns, along with unincorporated areas of Maricopa County, are facing skyrocketing water prices. For some, their water bills are as high as their electric bills.

At a public hearing at the Arizona Corporation Commission's Phoenix office Tuesday, concerned citizens took the first official step to try to reverse a 2012 change in the district boundaries which led to the high prices. The change moved about 9,000 Anthem customers out of the Agua Fria Water district, spreading wastewater delivery costs over fewer homeowners in the West Valley, hiking their rates.

Among the attendees at the hearing were two families who are indirect rivals in the battle over water rates: the McDonald clan from Russell Ranch near El Mirage Road and Loop 303, and the Arvin family from Anthem, just east of I-17.

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As Arizona Wrestles With Solar's Costs, Industry Slows
As Arizona Wrestles With Solar's Costs, Industry Slows
Renewable energy requirements

Western states vary in their rules regarding how much power must come from renewable energy. They also have a variety of options regarding what type of power they use to meet these general requirements.


 Ryan Randazzo, The Republic | azcentral.com 5:18 a.m. MST July 13, 2014

With renewable-energy targets largely met, demand for alternatives wanes.

For years, Arizona has been a leader in solar-power generation. Utilities in the state have been held to an expensive renewable-energy standard, jobs have been added, and solar projects have been installed at a rapid-fire pace.

But after a period of explosive growth, the industry that Arizona helped pioneer is slowing as utility regulators grapple with how much of a premium energy customers should pay to implement solar and other renewables.

The U.S. solar market is expected to grow by one-third this year compared with 2013. But the forecast for Arizona is cloudier. For the first time in several years, no large solar plants are under construction in the state, and the number of rooftop-solar installations is down year over year, particularly for businesses.

Arizona has a lower renewable-energy standard than neighboring states. But in the past year, regulators, utility officials, consumers and clean-energy advocates have intensely debated the additional costs associated with alternative energy.

Arizona's renewable efforts are solar-heavy because the state does not have as much inexpensive wind or geothermal energy potential as some of its neighbors. The price for cleaner energy often is higher bills, and the costs can end up falling on people already struggling to make ends meet.

Most of the solar and other renewable-energy projects built in Arizona have come about because of the state's renewable-energy standard, requiring utilities to get 15 percent of their energy from solar and other renewables by 2025. That is now the lowest standard in the eight most populous Western states, although Utah's standard is more of a goal than a mandate.

Last year, California's three largest regulated utilities got nearly 23 percent of their electricity from renewables, far more than Arizona will produce in a decade under its current rules.

The Washington, D.C.-based Solar Foundation reports that nationwide the industry added about 24,000 jobs in 2013, representing growth of nearly 20 percent. But Arizona is one of five states that went the other direction and lost jobs after a busy solar-building phase.

To be sure, Arizona has lots of solar already, including two of the largest solar plants of their kind near Gila Bend and Yuma, and one of the highest rates of rooftop solar in the nation. But the pace of new installations is waning as utilities have found they are meeting the requirements to use alternative energy.

Solar companies would like to see the pace of development stay high, but Arizona Public Service Co. officials say it isn't so simple.

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APS to Pay $3.25 Million for 2011 Outage
APS to Pay $3.25 Million for 2011 Outage

Robert Anglen, The Republic | azcentral.com 8:23 a.m. MST July 8, 2014

Federal regulators found APS' violations undermined operation of the bulk power system, However, since the blackout, they said APS has taken steps to increase reliability and ensure better safety.

Arizona Public Service Co. has agreed to pay $3.25 million in civil fines and system improvements to end an investigation into its role in a 2011 power outage that affected millions of customers in Arizona, California and Mexico.

The settlement agreement, announced Monday, ends a joint investigation by the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission and the North American Electric Reliability Corporation, which found APS' failure to communicate with neighboring power companies contributed to the cascading blackout.

"Enforcement staff and NERC found APS' violations ... to be serious deficiencies undermining reliable operation of the bulk power system," FERC officials said in a statement Monday. "However, since the blackout, APS has worked cooperatively with Enforcement staff and NERC, as well as on its own, to improve reliability."

APS officials said Monday the settlement does not imply the company accepts blame.

"APS neither admits nor denies the violations cited in the settlement," APS spokesman Jim McDonald said. "Resolving this issue enables us to move forward and continue working with the other entities to implement measures to help avoid similar future events."

The settlement calls for APS to pay $1 million each to the U.S. Treasury and to NERC, which regulates power systems in the United States, Canada and the northern portion of Baja California, Mexico. It also will pay $1.25 million for new "enhancement measures."

APS has already added equipment in substations north of Yuma to handle increased power demands and also has installed a control system in Phoenix to better monitor the power grid throughout the Southwest.

The outage left about 5 million people, primarily in Southern California and Mexico, without power for up to 12 hours.

A joint report released by investigators in 2012 said the outage exposed the need for improved preparation and communication among power-grid operators.

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Commission Candidates Debate Solar Taxes
Commission Candidates Debate Solar Taxes

Ryan Randazzo, The Republic | azcentral.com 8:16 p.m. MST June 28, 2014 -- Candidates for the Arizona Corporation Commission are spending more time debating where their political support is coming from than the utility policies they would pursue if elected.

The five-member commission that regulates utilities, securities, pipelines and railroad crossings in the state has two open seats this year.

Candidates Lucy Mason and Vernon Parker are running as a team in the Republican primary. They have been endorsed by a solar-industry group that frequently has business matters decided by the commission.

Mason and Parker have accused their competitors, Tom Forese and Doug Little, of receiving support from Arizona Public Service Co. A political independent-expenditure committee called Arizona 2014 supports Forese and Little. APS has not responded to questions regarding support of the committee, and utility officials have said they will not guarantee the company will stand on the sidelines of the election.

The winners in the Republican primary in August will face Democrats Sandra Kennedy and Jim Holway in the November general election.

During a televised debate Wednesday, the Republicans struggled to put distance between themselves, agreeing in general that protecting utility ratepayers is paramount to the job and highlighting their respective qualifications.

However, they split widely when asked about property taxes on rooftop solar.

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Tax on Leased Solar Panels Enlivens ACC Debate
Tax on Leased Solar Panels Enlivens ACC Debate

Mason Parker Lucy Mason and Tom Forese

June 27, 2014  •  By Howard Fischer Capitol Media Service •  PHOENIX — Two Republicans hoping to sit on the Arizona Corporation Commission lashed out at a decision by the state Department of Revenue to impose property taxes on leased solar panels.

“We have unelected officials in our state passing laws that affect seniors, churches, schools,” complained Vernon Parker. He said if the panels are to be taxed, that should have been a decision by the Legislature.

Lucy Mason, running as a team with Parker, agreed that the levy is unjustified.

“I don’t like it at all,” she said during a debate Wednesday night sponsored by the Citizens Clean Elections Commission.

But candidate Doug Little said it’s not that simple. He said that exempting the solar panels leased by individual homeowners from the annual property tax creates an inequity with firms that are in the business of actually selling electricity.

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