Guest Column: UniSource rate proposal unfair

The recent essay in the Kingman Daily Miner entitled "UniSource Plan Gives Control to Consumers" demonstrates that UniSource Energy and its friends care more about the well-being of a Canada-based utility monopoly than the people of Mohave County.

The proposal put forth by UniSource Energy that the Arizona Chamber of Commerce and Tucson Hispanic Chamber of Commerce so adamantly support has never been approved by any regulated utility in the United States.

Why do you think that is? They're overly complicated, unfair, and punitive.

UniSource Energy is proposing to impose demand charges on all residential customers in its territory. Demand charges bill customers exorbitant rates for the peak 60 minute usage over the course of a month, instead of billing customers for the actual amount of energy they use. To avoid demand charges each month, customers would need to closely monitor their electricity usage and limit simultaneous use of energy-intensive activities. For example, running multiple appliances at once, such as an oven and dishwasher, could trigger an excessive demand charge for the month.

In the summer, we have about 138 peak hours a month. In winter, we have about 184 peak hours a month. If a customer were to use too much power during just one of those hours they would pay more, even if they conserved power the rest of the month.

Demand charges are only half of UniSource's proposal. UniSource is also looking to eliminate the key policy that allows solar customers to install rooftop solar on their homes: net metering. Nevada recently eliminated net metering, and killed the solar industry overnight, right before Christmas.

The attempt to eliminate solar competition in Arizona is not a new one. For years, Arizona Public Service has been trying to put rooftop solar out of business. And you guessed it; APS supports the UniSource rate hike on Mohave County and will likely seek a similar rate hike if UniSource gets its way.

Supporters of the UniSource proposal have the audacity to claim the solar industry leverages its employees as bargaining chips in its favor. I have met with local solar installers and seen firsthand the passion and pride they have for serving Mohave County. Solar creates well-paying, local jobs in all positions of the value chain. After our economy crashed, solar put people back to work. It's disgraceful to claim such allegations after what occurred in Nevada. Of course, it's difficult to play ball when the utilities burn down the field overnight.

Anyone who lives in Mohave County will tell you that voices in rural Arizona are few and far away from the halls of power. The bottom line is that some believe Mohave County is an easy target for a Canadian-based utility to impose rates that may set a precedent for the larger upcoming rate hearings.

But UniSource didn't count on hundreds of people showing up at Corporation Commission hearings in Kingman and Lake Havasu City, so the utility monopoly called on its friends to do a little damage control. Shame on them.

Today, the Arizona Corporation Commission will hear more public testimony on the UniSource rate hike. The hearing is at 6 p.m. in the Lake Havasu City Aquatic Center. UniSource may have friends in high places who are willing to lecture Mohave County to accept unfair demand charges. But Mohave County has residents willing to fight back. There will be plenty of them at the Corporation Commission hearing.