On Wednesday, the Arizona Corporation sent a clear message to Arizona’s biggest utilities: there is a new sheriff in town and his posse ain’t playing.
The Arizona Corporation Commission voted on Wednesday to direct staff to begin a regulatory audit and a rate review of Arizona Public Service Company (APS) following numerous complaints of increased electricity bills by customers of the utility. The decision follows a letter docketed last month by Chairman Bob Burns and Commissioner Boyd Dunn asking staff to inquire whether APS properly and sufficiently executed its customer outreach and education programs.
For years, Burns has fought APS in an effort to ascertain whether its campaign contributions may have unfairly influenced the rate increase process, but former chair Tom Forese led efforts to block him. Forese failed to make it out of the 2018 Republican Primary, leaving the door open to candidates, who are not held “captive” by utility giants like APS.
According to a press release from the Corporation Commission, the approval of APS’s recent rate increase required customer outreach and education by APS in order “to inform ratepayers of the different rate plan options. This education was intended to give customers the tools and knowledge to keep their bill increases to a minimum and in some cases perhaps even reduce their bills. Due to the significant amount of complaints of large bill increases received by the Corporation Commission, Commissioners believe that APS may not have adequately performed its outreach efforts and might be earning profits beyond what was authorized in its recent rate case.”
Commissioners instructed staff to begin the review immediately using 2018 as a test year because it was the first full calendar year since APS’s rate increase was approved. Commissioners further directed staff to file its final report on the matter no later than May 3, 2019 and even sooner if possible.