APS customers who refuse to use 'smart meters' now will be charged $5 a month

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People who refuse to use a smart utility meter will have to pay APS $5 a month.

After years of debate, Arizona Public Service Co. won approval Tuesday to charge customers $5 a month if they refuse a "smart meter" to track electricity use.

Smart meters, used by nearly all 1.1 million APS customers, use wireless signals to transmit customers' energy use to the utility.

The company long ago proposed fees for customers who refuse the meters, similar to utilities in other states and its Arizona counterpart, Salt River Project.

SRP charges a $20 monthly fee for customers who don't want a smart meter, even though the company manually reads meters every other month, estimating the usage in between.

But the Arizona Corporation Commission wrestled with the concept for APS, approving fees in 2014, then rescinding them in 2015 amid legal concerns. By a 4-1 vote Tuesday, they once again approved them.

Customers who are using a smart meter today and want it switched out for a meter that does not use wireless communication will have to pay a $50 fee starting Oct. 1, when the monthly $5 fees for reading the meters also will begin.

When the commission debated the issue in 2014, several opponents voiced concern that the meters could violate customer privacy by allowing utilities to see what appliances were being used at what time, that they could cause fires, and that they could cause a variety of health problems for people and animals.

More than 15,000 APS customers who have so far refused to let APS install a smart meter will not need to pay the swap-out fee.

When APS applied in 2016 to raise rates, it included a proposal to charge swap-out fees of $70 plus $15 a month for smart-meter opponents.

The lower fees agreed to in a rate-hike settlement "result in fair and reasonable balancing of all APS ratepayers and the utility," Administrative Law Judge Teena Jibilian said Tuesday at the Corporation Commission open meeting. The commissioners accepted her recommendation to approve the fees.

Jibilian asked that the smart-meter issue be "bifurcated" from the overall rate increase approved last month, though never explained why a separate meeting was needed.

She said the allegations that smart meters are a risk to health, safety, privacy and other concerns raised by opponents to the measure are not supported.

Sedona resident Warren Woodward, whose opposition to the meters prompted the commissioners to reverse the fees in 2015, said he disagreed with the decision.

"Obviously I don't support the (judge's recommendation) in any way, shape or form," he told the commissioners.

Commissioner Robert Burns was the lone no vote on the matter. He also was the lone vote against the broader APS rate increase last month, and said he opposed the smart-meter issue because it arose from the rate case.

 

 

 

 

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