Yesterday the Arizona Corporation Commission voted to help ratepayers struggling to pay their electric bill know there is at least a bit of light heading into 2021.
Through the Commission’s action, Arizona Public Service, Tucson Electric Power and Unisource Electric will automatically enroll ratepayers behind on their bills who may be subject to disconnection in an eight-month payment plan, starting in January 2021. Utilities also agreed to work with customers who may need more time to catch up on their bills. In addition, qualified low-income customers will receive a discount up to $250 off their bill, due in part to support from APS, TEP and UNSE shareholders.
Wildfire: Igniting Community Action to End Poverty in Arizona and the Arizona PIRG Education Fund, organizations at the forefront of this issue before the Commission, praised Commissioner Sandra Kennedy for “recognizing the challenges that so many ratepayers are experiencing due to COVID-19 to pay their bills and taking the initiative to enact solutions”.
Cynthia Zwick, executive director of Wildfire, thanked Commissioner Kennedy for her ongoing sensitivity to and support of programs to help struggling families, particularly during this COVID-19 pandemic that has wreaked havoc in our community.
Commissioner Kennedy’s proposal included an outreach and education plan to combine information on various customer-assistance programs, and reporting requirements helpful for targeting outreach efforts and noting trends, in order to respond to customer needs.
Commissioner Boyd Dunn expanded upon Commissioner Kennedy’s proposal and incorporated more specific and inclusive language around the COVID discount and eligibility, which Wildfire and the Arizona PIRG Education Fund supported. The Commission voted 4-1 to approve Commissioner Dunn’s amendment with Chairman Burns and Commissioner Marquez Peterson joining Commissioner Dunn and Commissioner Kennedy in support.
Diane E. Brown, Executive Director of the Arizona PIRG Education Fund, stated, “The Commission’s action recognizes the challenges that many ratepayers are experiencing to pay their bills; helps ratepayers who have fallen behind on their bills with a meaningful and manageable method to catch up; ensures shareholder dollars help alleviate customer costs; stipulates long overdue consumer education and outreach plans that incorporate a variety of beneficial programs, particularly of assistance for limited income consumers; and requires valuable data to help Commissioners, stakeholders and ratepayers be able to make informed decisions.”
Salt River Project is not regulated by the Arizona Corporation Commission and has programs to support families who need assistance as well.
The organizations encouraged Arizonans needing help paying their electric bill to contact Wildfire, which partners with organizations in every county in Arizona to provide assistance: https://wildfireaz.org/find-help/energy-assistance/ and to check out the Arizona PIRG Education Fund’s no-cost and low-cost ways to save money on electric bills: https://arizonapirgedfund.org/feature/usp/top-11-ways-save-energy-home.
Information included in the Commission’s docket on this issue can be found here: https://edocket.azcc.gov/search/docket-search/item-detail/22652.