Retail Rate Case Filings with the Arizona Corporation Commission
Upcoming Rate Case Filing
On January 29, 2016, APS filed a NOI informing the ACC that APS intends to submit a rate case application in June 2016 using an adjusted test year ending December 31, 2015. The NOI provides an overview of the key issues APS expects to address in its formal request such as rate design changes (residential, commercial and industrial), a decoupling mechanism, permission to defer for potential future recovery costs associated with the Company’s Ocotillo Modernization Project, permission to defer for potential future recovery costs associated with environmental standards compliance, inclusion of post-test year plant and modifications to certain adjustor mechanisms, among other items. In its rate application, APS will request that its proposed pricing changes take effect in July 2017. APS is still developing the exact amount of the request.
Prior Rate Case Filing
On June 1, 2011, APS filed an application with the ACC for a net retail base rate increase of $95.5 million. APS requested that the increase become effective July 1, 2012. The request would have increased the average retail customer bill by approximately 6.6%. On January 6, 2012, APS and other parties to the general retail rate case entered into the 2012 Settlement Agreement detailing the terms upon which the parties agreed to settle the rate case. On May 15, 2012, the ACC approved the 2012 Settlement Agreement without material modifications.
The 2012 Settlement Agreement provides for a zero net change in base rates, consisting of: (1) a non-fuel base rate increase of $116.3 million; (2) a fuel-related base rate decrease of $153.1 million (to be implemented by a change in the Base Fuel Rate from $0.03757 to $0.03207 per kWh); and (3) the transfer of cost recovery for certain renewable energy projects from the RES surcharge to base rates in an estimated amount of $36.8 million.
Other key provisions of the 2012 Settlement Agreement include the following:
•An authorized return on common equity of 10.0%;
•A capital structure comprised of 46.1% debt and 53.9% common equity;
A test year ended December 31, 2010, adjusted to include plant that is in service as of March 31, 2012;
Deferral for future recovery or refund of property taxes above or below a specified 2010 test year level caused by changes to the Arizona property tax rate as follows:
Deferral of increases in property taxes of 25% in 2012, 50% in 2013 and 75% for 2014 and subsequent years if Arizona property tax rates increase; and
•Deferral of 100% in all years if Arizona property tax rates decrease;
A procedure to allow APS to request rate adjustments prior to its next general rate case related to APS’s acquisition of additional interests in Units 4 and 5 and the related closure of Units 1-3 of Four Corners (APS made its filing under this provision on December 30, 2013, see "Four Corners" below);
Implementation of a “Lost Fixed Cost Recovery” rate mechanism to support energy efficiency and distributed renewable generation;
Modifications to the Environmental Improvement Surcharge to allow for the recovery of carrying costs for capital expenditures associated with government-mandated environmental controls, subject to an existing cents per kWh cap on cost recovery that could produce up to approximately $5 million in revenues annually;
•Modifications to the PSA, including the elimination of the 90/10 sharing provision;
A limitation on the use of the RES surcharge and the DSMAC to recoup capital expenditures not required under the terms of the 2009 Settlement Agreement;
Allowing a negative credit that existed in the PSA rate to continue until February 2013, rather than being reset on the anticipated July 1, 2012 rate effective date;
Modification of the TCA to streamline the process for future transmission-related rate changes; and
Implementation of various changes to rate schedules, including the adoption of an experimental “buy-through” rate that could allow certain large commercial and industrial customers to select alternative sources of generation to be supplied by APS.
The 2012 Settlement Agreement was approved by the ACC on May 15, 2012, with new rates effective on July 1, 2012. This accomplished a goal set by the parties to the 2009 Settlement Agreement to process subsequent rate cases within twelve months of sufficiency findings from the ACC staff, which generally occurs within 30 days after the filing of a rate case.
Cost Recovery Mechanisms
APS has received regulatory decisions that allow for more timely recovery of certain costs through the following recovery mechanisms.
Renewable Energy Standard. In 2006, the ACC approved the RES. Under the RES, electric utilities that are regulated by the ACC must supply an increasing percentage of their retail electric energy sales from eligible renewable resources, including solar, wind, biomass, biogas and geothermal technologies. In order to achieve these requirements, the ACC allows APS to include a RES surcharge as part of customer bills to recover the approved amounts for use on renewable energy projects. Each year APS is required to file a five-year implementation plan with the ACC and seek approval for funding the upcoming year’s RES budget.
In 2013, the ACC conducted a hearing to consider APS’s proposal to establish compliance with distributed energy requirements by tracking and recording distributed energy, rather than acquiring and retiring renewable energy credits. On February 6, 2014, the ACC established a proceeding to modify the renewable energy rules to establish a process for compliance with the renewable energy requirement that is not based solely on the use of renewable energy credits. On September 9, 2014, the ACC authorized a rulemaking process to modify the RES rules. The proposed changes would permit the ACC to find that utilities have complied with the distributed energy requirement in light of all available information. The ACC adopted these changes on December 18, 2014. The revised rules went into effect on April 21, 2015.
In accordance with the ACC’s decision on the 2014 RES plan, on April 15, 2014, APS filed an application with the ACC requesting permission to build an additional 20 MW of APS-owned utility scale solar under the AZ Sun Program. In a subsequent filing, APS also offered an alternative proposal to replace the 20 MW of utility scale solar with 10 MW (approximately 1,500 customers) of APS-owned residential solar that will not be under the AZ Sun Program. On December 19, 2014, the ACC voted that it had no objection to APS implementing its residential rooftop solar program. The first stage of the residential rooftop solar program, called the "Solar Partner Program", is to be 8 MW followed by a 2 MW second stage that will only be deployed if coupled with distributed storage. The program will target specific distribution feeders in an effort to maximize potential system benefits, as well as make systems available to limited-income customers who cannot easily install solar through transactions with third parties. The ACC expressly reserved that any determination of prudency of the residential rooftop solar program for rate making purposes shall not be made until the project is fully in service and APS requests cost recovery in a future rate case.
On July 1, 2014, APS filed its 2015 RES implementation plan and proposed a RES budget of approximately $154 million. On December 31, 2014, the ACC issued a decision approving the 2015 RES implementation plan with minor modifications, including reducing the requested budget to approximately $152 million.
On July 1, 2015, APS filed its 2016 RES implementation plan and proposed a RES budget of approximately $148 million. On January 12, 2016, the ACC approved APS’s plan and requested budget.
Demand Side Management Adjustor Charge. The ACC Electric Energy Efficiency Standards require APS to submit a DSM Plan for review by and approval of the ACC.
On June 1, 2012, APS filed its 2013 DSM Plan. In 2013, the standards required APS to achieve cumulative energy savings equal to 5% of its 2012 retail energy sales. Later in 2012, APS filed a supplement to its plan that included a proposed budget for 2013 of $87.6 million.
On March 11, 2014, the ACC issued an order approving APS’s 2013 DSM Plan. The ACC approved a budget of $68.9 million for each of 2013 and 2014. The ACC also approved a Resource Savings Initiative that allows APS to count towards compliance with the ACC Electric Energy Efficiency Standards, savings from improvements to APS’s transmission and delivery system, generation and facilities that have been approved through a DSM Plan.
On March 20, 2015, APS filed an application with the ACC requesting a budget of $68.9 million for 2015 and minor modifications to its DSM portfolio going forward, including for the first time three resource savings projects which reflect energy savings on APS's system. The ACC approved APS’s 2015 DSM budget on November 25, 2015. In its decision, the ACC also approved that verified energy savings from APS’s resource savings projects could be counted toward compliance with the Electric Energy Efficiency Standard, however, the ACC ruled that APS was not allowed to count savings from systems savings projects toward determination of its achievement tier level for its performance incentive, nor may APS include savings from conservation voltage reduction in the calculation of its LFCR mechanism.
On June 1, 2015, APS filed its 2016 DSM Plan requesting a budget of $68.9 million and minor modifications to its DSM portfolio to increase energy savings and cost effectiveness of the programs. The DSM Plan also proposed a reduction in the DSMAC of approximately 12%.
Electric Energy Efficiency. On June 27, 2013, the ACC voted to open a new docket investigating whether the Electric Energy Efficiency Standards should be modified. The ACC held a series of three workshops in March and April 2014 to investigate methodologies used to determine cost effective energy efficiency programs, cost recovery mechanisms, incentives, and potential changes to the Electric Energy Efficiency and Resource Planning Rules.
On November 4, 2014, the ACC staff issued a request for informal comment on a draft of possible amendments to Arizona’s Electric Energy Efficiency Standards. The draft proposed substantial changes to the rules and energy efficiency standards. The ACC accepted written comments and took public comment regarding the possible amendments on December 19, 2014. A formal rulemaking has not been initiated and there has been no additional action on the draft to date.
PSA Mechanism and Balance. The PSA provides for the adjustment of retail rates to reflect variations in retail fuel and purchased power costs. The PSA is subject to specified parameters and procedures, including the following:
APS records deferrals for recovery or refund to the extent actual retail fuel and purchased power costs vary from the Base Fuel Rate;
An adjustment to the PSA rate is made annually each February 1 (unless otherwise approved by the ACC) and goes into effect automatically unless suspended by the ACC;
The PSA uses a forward-looking estimate of fuel and purchased power costs to set the annual PSA rate, which is reconciled to actual costs experienced for each PSA Year (February 1 through January 31) (see the following bullet point);
The PSA rate includes (a) a “Forward Component,” under which APS recovers or refunds differences between expected fuel and purchased power costs for the upcoming calendar year and those embedded in the Base Fuel Rate; (b) a “Historical Component,” under which differences between actual fuel and purchased power costs and those recovered through the combination of the Base Fuel Rate and the Forward Component are recovered during the next PSA Year; and (c) a “Transition Component,” under which APS may seek mid-year PSA changes due to large variances between actual fuel and purchased power costs and the combination of the Base Fuel Rate and the Forward Component; and
The PSA rate may not be increased or decreased more than $0.004 per kWh in a year without permission of the ACC.
The following table shows the changes in the deferred fuel and purchased power regulatory asset (liability) for 2015 and 2014 (dollars in thousands):
Year Ended December 31,
Deferred fuel and purchased power costs - current period
Amounts charged to customers
The PSA rate for the PSA year beginning February 1, 2016 is $0.001678 per kWh, as compared to $0.000887 per kWh for the prior year. This new rate is comprised of a forward component of $0.001975 per kWh and a historical component of $(0.000297) per kWh. On October 15, 2015, APS notified the ACC that it was initiating a PSA transition component of $(0.004936) per kWh for the months of November 2015, December 2015, and January 2016. The PSA transition component is a mid-year adjustment to the PSA rate that may be established when conditions change sufficiently to cause high balances to accrue in the PSA balancing account. The transition component expired on February 1, 2016. Any uncollected (overcollected) deferrals during the PSA year, after accounting for the transition component, will be included in the calculation of the PSA rate for the PSA year beginning February 1, 2017.
Transmission Rates, Transmission Cost Adjustor and Other Transmission Matters. In July 2008, FERC approved an Open Access Transmission Tariff for APS to move from fixed rates to a formula rate-setting methodology in order to more accurately reflect and recover the costs that APS incurs in providing transmission services. A large portion of the rate represents charges for transmission services to serve APS’s retail customers ("Retail Transmission Charges"). In order to recover the Retail Transmission Charges, APS was previously required to file an application with, and obtain approval from, the ACC to reflect changes in Retail Transmission Charges through the TCA. Under the terms of the 2012 Settlement Agreement, however, an adjustment to rates to recover the Retail Transmission Charges will be made annually each June 1 and will go into effect automatically unless suspended by the ACC.
The formula rate is updated each year effective June 1 on the basis of APS’s actual cost of service, as disclosed in APS’s FERC Form 1 report for the previous fiscal year. Items to be updated include actual capital expenditures made as compared with previous projections, transmission revenue credits and other items. The resolution of proposed adjustments can result in significant volatility in the revenues to be collected. APS reviews the proposed formula rate filing amounts with the ACC staff. Any items or adjustments which are not agreed to by APS and the ACC staff can remain in dispute until settled or litigated at FERC. Settlement or litigated resolution of disputed issues could require an extended period of time and could have a significant effect on the Retail Transmission Charges because any adjustment, though applied prospectively, may be calculated to account for previously over- or under-collected amounts.
Effective June 1, 2014, APS’s annual wholesale transmission rates for all users of its transmission system increased by approximately $5.9 million for the twelve-month period beginning June 1, 2014 in accordance with the FERC-approved formula. An adjustment to APS’s retail rates to recover FERC-approved transmission charges went into effect automatically on June 1, 2014.
Effective June 1, 2015, APS’s annual wholesale transmission rates for all users of its transmission system decreased by approximately $17.6 million for the twelve-month period beginning June 1, 2015 in accordance with the FERC-approved formula. An adjustment to APS’s retail rates to recover FERC-approved transmission charges went into effect automatically on June 1, 2015.
APS's formula rate protocols have been in effect since 2008. Recent FERC orders suggest that FERC is examining the structure of formula rate protocols and may require companies such as APS to make changes to their protocols in the future.
Lost Fixed Cost Recovery Mechanism. The LFCR mechanism permits APS to recover on an after-the-fact basis a portion of its fixed costs that would otherwise have been collected by APS in the kWh sales lost due to APS energy efficiency programs and to distributed generation such as rooftop solar arrays. The fixed costs recoverable by the LFCR mechanism were established in the 2012 Settlement Agreement and amount to approximately 3.1 cents per residential kWh lost and 2.3 cents per non-residential kWh lost. The LFCR adjustment has a year-over-year cap of 1% of retail revenues. Any amounts left unrecovered in a particular year because of this cap can be carried over for recovery in a future year. The kWh’s lost from energy efficiency are based on a third-party evaluation of APS’s energy efficiency programs. Distributed generation sales losses are determined from the metered output from the distributed generation units.
APS files for a LFCR adjustment every January. APS filed its 2014 annual LFCR adjustment on January 15, 2014, requesting a LFCR adjustment of $25.3 million, effective March 1, 2014. The ACC approved APS’s LFCR adjustment without change on March 11, 2014, which became effective April 1, 2014. APS filed its 2015 annual LFCR adjustment on January 15, 2015, requesting an LFCR adjustment of $38.5 million, which was approved on March 2, 2015, effective for the first billing cycle of March. APS filed its 2016 annual LFCR adjustment on January 15, 2016, requesting an LFCR adjustment of $46.4 million (a $7.9 million annual increase), to be effective for the first billing cycle of March 2016.
On July 12, 2013, APS filed an application with the ACC proposing a solution to address the cost shift brought by the current net metering rules. On December 3, 2013, the ACC issued its order on APS’s net metering proposal. The ACC instituted a charge on customers who install rooftop solar panels after December 31, 2013. The charge of $0.70 per kilowatt became effective on January 1, 2014, and is estimated to collect $4.90 per month from a typical future rooftop solar customer to help pay for their use of the electric grid. The fixed charge does not increase APS's revenue because it is credited to the LFCR.
In making its decision, the ACC determined that the current net metering program creates a cost shift, causing non-solar utility customers to pay higher rates to cover the costs of maintaining the electric grid. The ACC acknowledged that the $0.70 per kilowatt charge addresses only a portion of the cost shift.
On October 20, 2015, the ACC voted to conduct a generic evidentiary hearing on the value and cost of distributed generation to gather information that will inform the ACC on net metering issues and cost of service studies in upcoming utility rate cases. A hearing has been scheduled to commence in April 2016. APS cannot predict the outcome of this proceeding.
In 2015, Arizona jurisdictional utilities UNS Electric, Inc. and Tucson Electric Power Company both filed applications with the ACC requesting rate increases. These applications include rate design changes to mitigate the cost shift caused by net metering. On December 9, 2015, APS filed testimony in the UNS Electric, Inc. rate case in support of the UNS Electric, Inc. proposed rate design changes. APS has also requested intervention in the upcoming Tucson Electric Power Company rate case. The outcomes of these proceedings will not directly impact our financial position.
Appellate Review of Third-Party Regulatory Decision ("System Improvement Benefits" or "SIB")
In a recent appellate challenge to an ACC rate decision involving a water company, the Arizona Court of Appeals considered the question of how the ACC should determine the “fair value” of a utility’s property, as specified in the Arizona Constitution, in connection with authorizing the recovery of costs through rate adjustors outside of a rate case. The Court of Appeals reversed the ACC’s method of finding fair value in that case, and raised questions concerning the relationship between the need for fair value findings and the recovery of capital and certain other utility costs through adjustors. The ACC sought review by the Arizona Supreme Court of this decision and APS filed a brief supporting the ACC’s petition to the Arizona Supreme Court for review of the Court of Appeals’ decision. On February 9, 2016, the Arizona Supreme Court granted review of the decision and oral argument is set for March 22, 2016. If the decision is upheld by the Supreme Court without modification, certain APS rate adjustors may require modification. This could in turn have an impact on APS’s ability to recover certain costs in between rate cases. APS cannot predict the outcome of this matter.
On December 30, 2013, APS purchased SCE’s 48% ownership interest in each of Units 4 and 5 of Four Corners. The 2012 Settlement Agreement includes a procedure to allow APS to request rate adjustments prior to its next general rate case related to APS’s acquisition of the additional interests in Units 4 and 5 and the related closure of Units 1-3 of Four Corners. APS made its filing under this provision on December 30, 2013. On December 23, 2014, the ACC approved rate adjustments resulting in a revenue increase of $57.1 million on an annual basis. This includes the deferral for future recovery of all non-fuel operating costs for the acquired SCE interest in Four Corners, net of the non-fuel operating costs savings resulting from the closure of Units 1-3 from the date of closing of the purchase through its inclusion in rates. The 2012 Settlement Agreement also provides for deferral for future recovery of all unrecovered costs incurred in connection with the closure of Units 1-3. The deferral balance related to the acquisition of SCE’s interest in Units 4 and 5 and the closure of Units 1-3 was $70 million as of December 31, 2015 and is being amortized in rates over a total of 10 years. On February 23, 2015, the Arizona School Boards Association and the Association of Business Officials filed a notice of appeal in Division 1 of the Arizona Court of Appeals of the ACC decision approving the rate adjustments. APS has intervened and is actively participating in the proceeding. The Arizona Court of Appeals has suspended the appeal pending the Arizona Supreme Court's decision in the SIB matter discussed above, which could have an effect on the outcome of this Four Corners proceeding. We cannot predict when or how this matter will be resolved.
As part of APS’s acquisition of SCE’s interest in Units 4 and 5, APS and SCE agreed, via a “Transmission Termination Agreement” that, upon closing of the acquisition, the companies would terminate an existing transmission agreement (“Transmission Agreement”) between the parties that provides transmission capacity on a system (the “Arizona Transmission System”) for SCE to transmit its portion of the output from Four Corners to California. APS previously submitted a request to FERC related to this termination, which resulted in a FERC order denying rate recovery of $40 million that APS agreed to pay SCE associated with the termination. APS and SCE negotiated an alternate arrangement under which SCE would assign its 1,555 MW capacity rights over the Arizona Transmission System to third-parties, including 300 MW to APS’s marketing and trading group. However, this alternative arrangement was not approved by FERC. On December 22, 2015, APS and SCE agreed to terminate the Transmission Termination Agreement and allow for the Transmission Agreement to expire according to its terms, which includes settling obligations in accordance with the terms of the Transmission Agreement. APS has established a regulatory asset of $12 million at December 31, 2015 in connection with the expiration of the Transmission Agreement, which it expects to recover through its FERC-jurisdictional rates.
On September 11, 2014, APS announced that it would close Cholla Unit 2 and cease burning coal at the other APS-owned units (Units 1 and 3) at the plant by the mid-2020s, if EPA approves a compromise proposal offered by APS to meet required environmental and emissions standards and rules. On April 14, 2015, the ACC approved APS's plan to retire Unit 2, without expressing any view on the future recoverability of APS's remaining investment in the Unit. APS closed Unit 2 on October 1, 2015. Previously, APS estimated Cholla Unit 2’s end of life to be 2033. APS is currently recovering a return on and of the net book value of the unit in base rates and plans to seek recovery of the unit’s decommissioning and other retirement-related costs over the remaining life of the plant in its next retail rate case. APS believes it will be allowed recovery of the remaining net book value of Unit 2 ($122 million as of December 31, 2015), in addition to a return on its investment. In accordance with GAAP, in the third quarter of 2014, Unit 2’s remaining net book value was reclassified from property, plant and equipment to a regulatory asset. If the ACC does not allow full recovery of the remaining net book value of Cholla Unit 2, all or a portion of the regulatory asset will be written off and APS’s net income, cash flows, and financial position will be negatively impacted.
Regulatory Assets and Liabilities
The detail of regulatory assets is as follows (dollars in thousands):
December 31, 2015
December 31, 2014
Retired power plant costs
Income taxes - AFUDC equity
Deferred fuel and purchased power — mark-to-market (Note 16)
Four Corners cost deferral
Income taxes — investment tax credit basis adjustment
Lost fixed cost recovery
Palo Verde VIEs (Note 18)
Deferred property taxes
Loss on reacquired debt
Tax expense of Medicare subsidy
Transmission vegetation management
Mead-Phoenix transmission line CIAC
Deferred fuel and purchased power (b) (c)
Pension and other postretirement benefits deferral
Total regulatory assets (e)
This asset represents the future recovery of pension benefit obligations through retail rates. If these costs are disallowed by the ACC, this regulatory asset would be charged to OCI and result in lower future revenues. See Note 7 for further discussion.
See “Cost Recovery Mechanisms” discussion above.
Subject to a carrying charge.
Per the provision of the 2012 Settlement Agreement.
There are no regulatory assets for which the ACC has allowed recovery of costs, but not allowed a return by exclusion from rate base. FERC rates are set using a formula rate as described in “Transmission Rates, Transmission Cost Adjustor and Other Transmission Matters.”
The detail of regulatory liabilities is as follows (dollars in thousands):
December 31, 2015
December 31, 2014
Asset retirement obligations
Other postretirement benefits
Income taxes — deferred investment tax credit
Income taxes - change in rates
Spent nuclear fuel
Renewable energy standard (b)
Demand side management (b)
Deferred fuel and purchased power (b) (c)
Deferred gains on utility property
Four Corners coal reclamation
Total regulatory liabilities
In accordance with regulatory accounting guidance, APS accrues for removal costs for its regulated assets, even if there is no legal obligation for removal (see Note 11).
See “Cost Recovery Mechanisms” discussion above.
Subject to a carrying charge.