Current Utility News
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SRP Remains Atop Business Satisfaction Study
SRP Remains Atop Business Satisfaction Study

randazzo-ryan Ryan Randazzo, The Republic | 7:58 p.m. MST January 13, 2016

SRP buildingSalt River Project remained the No. 1 ranked large power company in the West last year among business customers, according to a new J.D. Power and Associates study.

Arizona Public Service Co. improved its score in the annual survey but fell from No. 3 to No. 7 in the region as several of its peers improved their score.

It is the third straight year and sixth time in the past seven years that SRP has topped its peers in the study.

Business customers only represent about 10 percent of SRP's customer base, but account for about 40 percent of revenue.

Utilities are ranked in the survey on a 1,000-point scale based on power quality and reliability, corporate citizenship, price, billing/payment, communications and customer service.

Phoenix Water Rates are Going up in March
Phoenix Water Rates are Going up in March

 Dustin GardinerDustin Gardiner, The Republic | 12:13 p.m. MST January 7, 2016

Average residential customer will pay $1.59 more per month for water and sewer service; another increase approved for 2017

sprinklerThe average Phoenix resident will pay $1.59 more per month on their water and sewer bill starting in March.

City leaders voted 5-4 on Wednesday to raise water rates for about 430,000 households and businesses with city utility service. The water- and sewer-rate hike, a 2.6 percent increase when combined, will be followed by an additional 2 percent increase in 2017.

Phoenix has not increased water or sewer rates for three years, but, city officials said, the water system is operating at a loss.

State Supreme Court Declines to Take Up Bitter Smith Issue
State Supreme Court Declines to Take Up Bitter Smith Issue

randazzo-ryanRyan Randazzo, The Republic | 1:42 p.m. MST January 5, 2016

sueArizona Supreme Court justices decided Tuesday that they don't need to determine whether utility regulator Susan Bitter Smith had an actual conflict of interest by working for the cable television industry while overseeing telecommunications companies.

Bitter Smith resigned, effective Monday, after Attorney Mark Brnovich's office filed a motion seeking her removal from the Arizona Corporation Commission.

Bitter Smith said she resigned because the court action was a distraction to her work, but she wanted the court to address the issue to provide clarity about what constitutes a conflict of interest for Arizona Corporation Commission members.

That won't happen.

APS Refuses Request to Disclose Political Contributions
APS Refuses Request to Disclose Political Contributions

randazzo-ryanRyan Randazzo, The Republic | 6:13 p.m. MST December 31, 2015 --  Arizona Public Service Co. officials told utility regulator Robert Burns on Wednesday that the company has no obligation to disclose what it or its parent company spends on political campaigns, denying his request for the company to report such expenses.

BURNSAPS did not deny such spending in a written response to Burns but said singling out the utility for disclosure would be unfair.

“Compelled disclosure about political contributions that APS or its affiliates may have made out of shareholder profits would go beyond what is required of all corporations under Arizona campaign-finance law, and would impinge on APS’ First Amendment rights,” wrote Don Brandt, president and CEO of APS and its parent company, Pinnacle West Capital Corp.

Brandt was responding to a Nov. 30 request from Burns to disclose direct and indirect contributions to political candidates in the 2014 elections. He gave APS 30 days to respond.

Burns’ move followed a request he and Corporation Commission Chairwoman Susan Bitter Smith made for companies with business at the commission to voluntarily refrain from funding commissioner elections.

APS is widely believed to have contributed to the $3.2 million spent by independent political groups supporting Republicans Tom Forese and Doug Little, who won election to the utility-regulating commission last year.

The U.S. Supreme Court's 2010 Citizens United ruling allows corporations and unions to spend unlimited funds on elections as long as they are independent of individual candidates or parties. That means a company such as APS can contribute to independent groups such as those that supported Forese and Little, and the groups don't have to disclose the donors.

Ducey Appoints Tobin to Corp Comm
Ducey Appoints Tobin to Corp Comm

By: Luige del Puerto December 30, 2015 , 1:41 pm 

Andy Tobin

Gov. Doug Ducey today appointed former House Speaker and Andy Tobin as the Arizona Corporation Commission’s newest regulator.

The governor made the appointment a day after the regulators met to elect Commissioner Doug Little as interim chairman. Tobin will replace Commissioner Susan Bitter Smith when her resignation becomes effective on January 4th.

“There’s a reason I’ve trusted Andy with so many important roles in my own administration – he’s a person of outstanding integrity,” Ducey said in a news release. “Andy is his own man, known for sticking to his guns and doing what he knows is right, even when the stakes are high and even under intense outside pressure. Now, more than ever, that strength of character is needed on this commission.”

Nevada's Solar Flare
Nevada’s Solar Flare
State regulators roll back the net-metering electricity scam.

Wall Street Journal/ Dec. 28, 2015 6:47 p.m. ET

Solar energy is no longer in its infancy, but the industry is refusing to grow up. See the tantrum the government-funded industry is throwing at Nevada’s rollback of its net-metering subsidy.

Last week the Nevada Public Utilities Commission voted to sunset the state’s net metering program, which compensates customers who remit excess solar power generated from their rooftop panels at the retail rate of power. The retail price is about two times higher than wholesale because it also includes transmission, delivery and grid maintenance costs.

More than 40 states have net-metering programs. The principal beneficiaries have been solar-leasing companies like  SolarCity  and  SunRun,  which install solar panels at no upfront cost to customers, pocket the sundry government subsidies, and then rent the panels at rates that typically escalate by about 3% annually but are initially lower than power from the grid. Homeowners can shave 20% from electric bills.

Sounds like a great deal—but there’s no free green lunch, and non-solar utility customers must underwrite this hidden subsidy. Nevada’s utility commission estimate that non-solar ratepayers—who tend to be lower income—subsidize each solar user in southern Nevada to the tune of $623 per year. Most of this flows to solar-leasing company investors such as  J.P. Morgan Chase,  Goldman Sachs  and  Citigroup.

Arizona Regulators Seek Solar Net-Metering Compromise
Arizona Regulators Seek Solar Net-Metering Compromise

Ryan Randazzo, The Republic | 9:47 a.m. MST December 29, 2015

Little ForeseTwo Arizona utility regulators feared by the solar industry as a threat to their business are trying to broker a compromise between rooftop-panel installers and big utilities.

When Republicans Tom Forese and Doug Little ran for office in 2014 to regulate Arizona utilities, and millions of dollars in support came their way through so-called “dark-money” groups, the solar industry feared the worst.

Rooftop-solar leasing firms were particularly concerned the money was coming from Arizona Public Service Co. in hopes of electing two regulators who would reduce solar subsidies. APS hasn’t denied funding the candidates.

The campaign got ugly. Besides questioning Forese and Little's motivations for seeking office, the rooftop-panel leasing companies took out ads depicting Little as a Pomeranian “lap dog” to APS.

After their first year in office, both regulators said they have put the negative political campaign behind them and are seeking solutions to the solar debate. Both have taken personal trips to San Mateo, Calif., to meet with Lyndon Rive, the semi-celebrity CEO of SolarCity Corp., the largest solar installer in Arizona and the country.

Bitter Cold; An Untimely Exit Ushers in a Winter of Discontent at the Arizona Corporation Commission
Bitter Cold: An Untimely Exit Ushers in a Winter of Discontent at the Arizona Corporation Commission

By: Rachel Leingang and Luige del Puerto  December 24, 2015 , 5:00 am


On Commissioner Bob Stump’s Facebook page is a photo of him flanked by two staffers of the Arizona Corporation Commission. He sports a brown jacket, his right hand in a pocket while his left tucks his jacket in to better insulate himself from the cold. The staffers are all bundled up, and the one to his right is in a semi-shiver pose.

The commission’s air-conditioning and heating systems aren’t working very well. Just last summer, everybody was sweating in the hearing room, whose AC needs an upgrade. The building’s heating pads, meanwhile, are inefficient, a complaint that the commission’s landlord, the Arizona Department of Administration, is well aware of.

And as the cold air seeps into offices this December, it’s been sometimes an incredibly frigid place to work. In the photo, Stump looks like he is halfway through a smile, but the camera merely captures him gritting his teeth. With a subpar central heating system, it’s suddenly up to each individual to keep warm.

There are several layers of irony to the fact that the agency in charge of ensuring that electricity flows freely to homes and industries is having a hard time keeping its employees comfortably cool during the summer and comfortably warm during the winter.

But one thing is clear: A wintry chill has come to the Arizona Corporation Commission, both literally and figuratively, and nowhere is that frigid air more pronounced than the untimely exit of Susan Bitter Smith, the agency’s chairwoman.

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