Arizona utility regulators OK rate boost for APS

Arizona utility regulators have approved a rate increase for the state's largest electric company that will boost the average homeowner's bill by about $6 a month starting Saturday.

Tuesday's 4-1 vote by the Arizona Corporation Commission comes months after Arizona Public Service reached a deal with solar and consumer advocates over its planned increases. The deal allowed smaller rate increases and cuts to what APS pays rooftop solar customers than the company originally proposed.

The deal allows a 4.5 percent residential rate increase, below the 8 percent the utility proposed last year. An administrative law judge largely agreed with the proposal and the commission also has now signed off.

It reportedly took a bit over a year to get to Tuesday's vote, and APS officials say it the raise will be a good thing, as it shores up some reserve money for the company.

Others, however, are not convinced the rate increase is a good thing.

"We've heard from a lot of APS ratepayers all across the state that this increase was not warranted," said Diane E. Brown, Executive Director of the Arizona Public Interest Research Group.

Brown said PIRG is still not sure why APS needed the increase. APS officials, however, touted its benefits.

"In exchange for that, our customers are getting great benefits, including continued investment in reliability," said Barbara Lockwood, Vice President of Regulation for APS.

Lockwood said the increase will help low income customers.

"An increase in 33% in funding to provide bill discount to our limited income customers, also a $1.25 million in crisis bill assistance to customers who are having a problem paying their bill," said Lockwood.

Commissioner Bob Burns opposed the measure, saying APS doesn't need the increase and hasn't been open about political spending that backed commissioners in recent elections. He's suing the company to try to force it to reveal its political spending.

The Associated Press (AP) contributed to this report.