Unisource Electric is experimenting with Mohave County ratepayers, and it could cost us dearly. The utility wants to raise rates through "demand charges." That change means the bulk of your bill is set each month based on the one hour you used the most power instead of the total power you actually use. If the Arizona Corporation Commission blesses this idea, it would be the first time a regulated utility in the United States would be allowed to impose demand charges on all residential customers. Do you want to be the guinea pig for that?
Demand charges are so complicated that when large businesses are subject to them, they hire energy managers or purchase special technology to help manage and reduce energy costs. That's not an option for residential customers.
In addition to making everyone's bills more volatile, Unisource also wants to put their only competitor, the rooftop solar industry, out of business by preventing customers from receiving fair credit for the extra clean energy they produce.
Why us? Why this one-two punch?
The folks at Unisource aren't stupid. They must have figured that because Mohave County is made up of smaller cities and because it is hundreds of miles from the state capital, we will fall under the radar. They must have figured that Mohave County residents wouldn't notice such a ridiculous rate hike until it was too late.
They figured wrong.
Mohave County may not have the population of Maricopa County and Pima County, but we have a voice and it's time for it to be heard. It's time to let a multinational energy corporation know that Mohave County is willing to fight for fair electric rates and fair treatment.
Average wages in Mohave County are generally below what we see in Arizona's larger cities. And many in Mohave County are senior citizens on fixed incomes. It's not easy for working families and retirees to make ends meet. It's even more difficult for them to take on a powerful utility and fight for what's fair. Unisource was counting on that.
Don't let them win.
On March 31, the Arizona Corporation Commission will host public hearings in Kingman and Lake Havasu City. In Kingman, the meeting will be held from 1 to 3 p.m. at the General Administration Building, 700 W. Beale St. In Lake Havasu City, the meeting will take place from 6 to 8 p.m. at the Lake Havasu City Police Department's meeting room at 2360 McCulloch Boulevard North.
If you can't make it to the meeting, let the Arizona Corporation Commission know how you feel.
The website is www.azcc.gov and you can weigh in by clicking the "Submit a Public Comment for a Utility" link. You can also call the commission at 1-800-222-7000.
No one's saying utilities don't have a right to make money, but they shouldn't make out like bandits because they think Mohave County is an easy target for an unfair electric rate hike. And they shouldn't be able to eliminate ways to save money with things such as solar after they have convinced politicians to let them raise their rates.
Tom Sheahan, who lived in Kingman more than three decades while with the MCSO before resigning as sheriff, now resides in Phoenix.