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Not everyone celebrating $36 million in APS refunds to customers

(Facebook Photo/Arizona Public Service - APS)

PHOENIX — Next month, $36 million is coming back to 1.3 million APS customers who paid into a program that they’re not using during the coronavirus pandemic.

“The surcharge is on everyone’s bill at this time, and then it’s saved and then utilized throughout the year for people who have applied for energy efficiency programs,” said Arizona Corporation Commissioner Lea Márquez Peterson.

Customers will get back what they paid. Diane Brown, executive director of Arizona Public Interest Research Group, says that’s nice — but it’s not enough.

“The extra large general service customer will receive $50,000,” she said. “The small residential customer will receive less than $8.00.”

Brown didn’t want the fund emptied in the name of immediate coronavirus relief, claiming that the depletion of funds will keep customers from receiving future relief.

Instead, Brown wanted commissioners to push APS to reduce bills for customers laid off during the pandemic.

Commissioners considered a $16-million assistance plan for struggling customers, especially those who lost their jobs. But Márquez Peterson said the refunds would be faster.

She expects the refunds to come next month, and commissioners didn’t have to vet and approve a new relief program that could have taken much longer.

“We’ve been looking for ways to provide customer relief,” she said. “We have heard stories of unemployment skyrocketing and businesses being so impacted during this crisis.”

Brown says commissioners and APS didn’t give enough consideration to their customers and their rising power bills.

“They have folks working from home and their electricity use is likely going up right about now, as we’re starting to hit those 100-degree temperatures,” she said.

Márquez Peterson says APS and all other utilities have relief programs in place so struggling customers should reach out to them immediately.

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