TEP proposes rate increase for 2017

Published: Nov. 6, 2015 at 4:09 PM MST|Updated: Jan. 1, 2016 at 7:47 PM MST
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TUCSON, AZ (Tucson News Now) - Tucson Electric Power customers could be paying more for their service as soon as 2017.

TEP filed its plan for new rates and fees Thursday with the Arizona Corporation Commission.

The proposal would increase an average residential bill by approximately $12 per month over the course of a year, according to a release from the utility company.

In this case, "typical" means 1,150 kWh in the summertime and 795 kWh in the winter, according to TEP's filing with the ACC.

Longtime customer Earnest Hearn said he's tired of seeing the price of powering his home continue to rise.

"I think they're just trying to get more money," he said. "Keep it like it is, or make it lower because it's getting crazy."

TEP spokesman Joe Barrios said Friday that the proposal is an effort to bring customer rates closer to the actual cost for the company to provide the utility.

Since 2011, TEP has invested roughly $1.3 billion in distribution upgrades, new renewable energy sources and generation-related investments, according to the company's filing with the ACC.

Barrios said continued investments, constant maintenance and less energy use from customers through conservation have all contributed to the need for this new plan.

"We have to make improvements to transformers and upgrade certain transmission lines and distribution lines. Those are all the types of things that are considered when we filed this application.

Solar customers, who were established before June 2015, will continue with the same reimbursement rate. However, customers since then who have switched to solar will be reimbursed for excess energy at half the cost.

Several environmental groups and local solar companies released statements Friday in opposition to the rate proposal, saying that it discourages people from switching to solar and it hurts low-income families.

Barrios said TEP is focused on the big picture of providing service to all of its customers.

"Instead of taking the resources that are available to us and investing in rooftop solar systems with the current net metering plan, we'd be able to invest in more cost effective large, community-scale solar systems," he said. "In essence we would be getting more solar for less money."

A "pay-as-you-go" plan is also part of the proposal. It would give customers the ability to pay down their bills before waiting to see the cost of what they used the month prior, which is a feature that customers have requested Barrios said.

Uninterested in payment plans, native Tucsonan Carl Hucakbee said the entire process still feels out of the hands of some customers. He said he doubts speaking up will make a difference.

"The average working guy, there's nothing he can do about it," he said. "If they want to raise it, they'll go ahead and do it."

The proposal will be vetted by the ACC which includes public hearings in Tucson. No dates have been scheduled at the time of this report.

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