AARP Eye Center
For many older Arizonans, managing monthly household expenses is not easy. When a monthly budget is tight, often seniors, however dangerous, try to keep power bills down by turning up the thermostat in the summer or turning it down in the winter. But saving money on electricity will be less effective if UNS is allowed to raise the fixed charges on monthly bills.
Fixed charges are owed even before you turn on a light switch!
First, UNS has asked to double the “basic service charge” on ratepayers’ electric bills from $10 to $20 per month. That’s a $120 annual increase!
Second, UNS is asking the Arizona Corporation Commission (ACC) to impose a mandatory surcharge, called a “Demand Charge”, on residential consumers that will make it hard to guess what your electric bill will be.
If approved by the ACC, demand charges will be inconvenient if not impossible for most consumers to predict. Monthly demand charges are based on the period of time of the highest use of electricity.
If the cooling comes on when you’ve turned on the stove and are doing the laundry, you may not notice. Consumers often don’t know when their household is using its monthly maximum electricity. Mandatory demand charges make it nearly impossible for ratepayers to keep their electric bill as low as possible.
Seniors on limited or fixed incomes are already struggling. There was no Social Security COLA increase this year. Seniors have much higher out of pocket medical expenses and spend a higher percentage of their household income on utilities than younger age groups.
Currently Arizona electric consumers have the option of being on a “time-of-use plan” for their monthly electric power usage. It’s voluntary and we know that if we do laundry early Saturday morning, it saves us money as the electricity is cheaper.
Time-of-use plans have worked well for years. But mandatory demand charges are untested. No other state utility commission has ever imposed mandatory demand charges on residential customers.
Why should an untested “demand charge” be tested here in Arizona with our hot summers? The Arizona Corporation Commission should follow this national trend and say “NO” to these surcharges as well.
By: Dana Kennedy, State Director AARP Arizona