Public to have say on SRP rate hike plan - East Valley Tribune: East Valley Local News

Public to have say on SRP rate hike plan

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Posted: Wednesday, February 10, 2010 4:44 pm | Updated: 3:26 am, Sat Oct 8, 2011.

Members of the public are invited to comment on Salt River Project’s proposed 4.9 percent electric rate increase at a special meeting Thursday of the SRP Board of Directors.

The utility’s management is proposing that the increase, which would raise the average residential electric bill by $5.95 a month to $132.85, go into effect May 1.

The meeting is scheduled to begin at 9:30 a.m. at the project’s administrative headquarters, 1521 N. Project Drive, Tempe.

SRP managers had proposed an 8.8 percent increase to go into effect Nov. 1, but vocal protests by customers who said the large increase was unwarranted during an economic downturn prompted the board to reject that proposal. Instead they told SRP managers to make more cost-reduction efforts and propose a revised rate plan this year.

Following a series of cost cutting measures, management proposed the 4.9 percent increase, saying the additional revenue is needed to pay for a new coal-fired generating unit at Springerville that replaced an older coal plant in Nevada closed for environmental reasons.

The actual impact of the new increase would vary depending on a customer’s rate plan. Those on the basic residential plan could see their rate increase by 5.6 percent or more, depending on how much energy they use, said SRP spokesman Scott Harelson.

Because the rate proposal is skewed to hit large users harder, about 75 percent of residential customers on the basic plan would see an increase of less than 5.6 percent and more than half would see an increase less than 4.9 percent, he said.

Critics of the previous rate case see some advantages of the current proposal, including the lesser increase.

Tim Hogan, director of the Arizona Center for Law in the Public Interest, said he likes the rate design requiring customers to pay higher rates as they use more electricity — a feature that encourages conservation. He also likes a renewable energy program in which SRP helps with the cost of installing solar-energy equipment on school buildings.

But he still is upset that residential customers are being hit with a higher percentage increase than commercial and industrial customers. He also wants an independent review of the project’s operations to determine if more cost-cutting is possible.

The Sierra Club and the Arizona Public Interest Research Group (PIRG) said they will ask SRP to focus more on energy efficiency and renewable energy and less on using relatively dirty coal for fuel.

“While we appreciate SRP’s commitment to delay new power plants and power lines whenever possible, it is important for SRP to concede investing in coal is investing in the past and investing in energy efficiency . . . is the future,” said Diane Brown, executive director of the Arizona PIRG Education Fund.

The board is not expected to make a decision Thursday. A meeting is scheduled March 11 to take a final vote.

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