Retail Rate Case Filing with the Arizona Corporation Commission
On June 1, 2016, APS filed an application with the ACC for an annual increase in retail base rates of $165.9 million. This amount excluded amounts that were then collected on customer bills through adjustor mechanisms. The application requested that some of the balances in these adjustor accounts (aggregating to approximately $267.6 million as of December 31, 2015) be transferred into base rates through the ratemaking process. This transfer would not have had an incremental effect on average customer bills. The average annual customer bill impact of APS’s request was an increase of 5.74% (the average annual bill impact for a typical APS residential customer was 7.96%). The principal provisions of the application are described in detail in Note 3 of our 2016 Form 10-K.
On March 27, 2017, a majority of the stakeholders in the rate case, including the ACC Staff, the Residential Utility Consumer Office, limited income advocates and private rooftop solar organizations signed a settlement agreement (the "2017 Settlement Agreement") and filed it with the ACC. The 2017 Settlement Agreement provides for a net retail base rate increase of $94.6 million, excluding the transfer of adjustor balances, consisting of: (1) a non-fuel, non-depreciation, base rate increase of $87.2 million per year; (2) a base rate decrease of $53.6 million attributable to reduced fuel and purchased power costs; and (3) a base rate increase of $61.0 million due to changes in depreciation schedules. The average annual customer bill impact under the 2017 Settlement Agreement is an increase of 3.28% (the average annual bill impact for a typical APS residential customer is 4.54%).
Other key provisions of the agreement include the following:
an agreement by APS not to file another general rate case application before June 1, 2019;
an authorized return on common equity of 10.0%;
a capital structure comprised of 44.2% debt and 55.8% common equity;
a cost deferral order for potential future recovery in APS’s next general rate case for the construction and operating costs APS incurs for its Ocotillo modernization project;
a cost deferral and procedure to allow APS to request rate adjustments prior to its next general rate case related to its share of the construction costs associated with installing selective catalytic reduction ("SCR") equipment at the Four Corners Power Plant ("Four Corners");
a deferral for future recovery (or credit to customers) of the Arizona property tax expense above or below a specified test year level caused by changes to the applicable Arizona property tax rate;
an expansion of the Power Supply Adjustor (“PSA”) to include certain environmental chemical costs and third-party battery storage costs;
a new AZ Sun II program for utility-owned solar distributed generation with the purpose of expanding access to rooftop solar for low and moderate income Arizonans, recoverable through the Arizona Renewable Energy Standard and Tariff ("RES"), to be no less than $10 million per year, and not more than $15 million per year;
an increase to the per kilowatt-hour (“kWh”) cap for the environmental improvement surcharge from $0.00016 to $0.00050 and the addition of a balancing account;
rate design changes, including:
a change in the on-peak time of use period from noon - 7 p.m. to 3 p.m. - 8 p.m. Monday through Friday, excluding holidays;
non-grandfathered distributed generation customers would be required to select a rate option that has time of use rates and either a new grid access charge or demand component;
a Resource Comparison Proxy (“RCP”) for exported energy of 12.9 cents per kWh in year one; and
an agreement by APS not to pursue any new self-build generation (with certain exceptions) having an in-service date prior to January 1, 2022 (extended to December 31, 2027 for combined-cycle generating units), unless expressly authorized by the ACC.
Through a separate agreement, APS, industry representatives, and solar advocates committed to stand by the settlement agreement and refrain from seeking to undermine it through ballot initiatives, legislation or advocacy at the ACC.
On August 15, 2017, the ACC approved (by a vote of 4-1), the 2017 Settlement Agreement without material modifications. On August 18, 2017, the ACC issued a final written Opinion and Order reflecting its decision in APS’s general retail rate case, which is subject to requests for rehearing and potential appeal. The new rates went into effect on August 19, 2017. On August 20, 2017, Commissioner Burns filed a special action petition in the Arizona Supreme Court seeking to vacate the ACC's order approving the 2017 Settlement Agreement so that alleged issues of disqualification and bias on the part of the other Commissioners can be fully investigated. APS opposed the petition, and on October 17, 2017, the Arizona Supreme Court declined to accept jurisdiction over Commissioner Burns’ special action petition.
On October 17, 2017, Warren Woodward (an intervener in APS's general retail rate case) filed a Notice of Appeal in the Arizona Court of Appeals, Division One. The notice raises a single issue related to the application of certain rate schedules to new APS residential customers after May 1, 2018. APS cannot predict the outcome of this appeal but does not believe it will have a material impact.
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 an agreement (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 for fuel and purchased power costs ("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 are described in detail in Note 3 of our 2016 Form 10-K.
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 December 2014, the ACC voted that it had no objection to APS implementing an APS-owned rooftop solar research and development program aimed at learning how to efficiently enable the integration of rooftop solar and battery storage with the grid. The first stage of the program, called the "Solar Partner Program," placed 8 MW of residential rooftop solar on strategically selected distribution feeders in an effort to maximize potential system benefits, as well as made systems available to limited-income customers who could not easily install solar through transactions with third parties. The second stage of the program, which included an additional 2 MW of rooftop solar and energy storage, placed two energy storage systems sized at 2 MW on two different high solar penetration feeders to test various grid-related operation improvements and system interoperability, and was in operation by the end of 2016. The costs for this program have been included in APS's rate base as part of the 2017 rate case decision.
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.
On July 1, 2016, APS filed its 2017 RES Implementation Plan and proposed a budget of approximately $150 million. APS’s budget request included additional funding to process the high volume of residential rooftop solar interconnection requests and also requested a permanent waiver of the residential distributed energy requirement for 2017 contained in the RES rules. On April 7, 2017, APS filed an amended 2017 RES Implementation Plan and updated budget request which included the revenue neutral transfer of specific revenue requirements in accordance with the 2017 Settlement Agreement. On August 15, 2017, the ACC approved the 2017 RES Implementation Plan.
On June 30, 2017, APS filed its 2018 RES Implementation Plan and proposed a budget of approximately $90 million. APS’s budget request supports existing approved projects and commitments and includes the anticipated transfer of specific revenue requirements in accordance with the 2017 Settlement Agreement and also requests a permanent waiver of the residential distributed energy requirement for 2018 contained in the RES rules. APS's 2018 RES budget request is lower than the 2017 RES budget due in part to a certain portion of the RES being collected by APS in base rates rather than through the RES adjustor. The ACC has not yet ruled on APS's 2018 RES Implementation Plan.
In September 2016, the ACC initiated a proceeding which will examine the possible modernization and expansion of the RES. The ACC noted that many of the provisions of the original rule may no longer be appropriate, and the underlying economic assumptions associated with the rule have changed dramatically. The proceeding will review such issues as the rapidly declining cost of solar generation, an increased interest in community solar projects, energy storage options, and the decline in fossil fuel generation due to stringent regulations of the United States Environmental Protection Agency ("EPA"). The proceeding will also examine the feasibility of increasing the standard to 30% of retail sales by 2030, in contrast to the current standard of 15% of retail sales by 2025. APS cannot predict the outcome of this proceeding.
Demand Side Management Adjustor Charge ("DSMAC"). The ACC Electric Energy Efficiency Standards require APS to submit a Demand Side Management Implementation Plan ("DSM Plan") annually for review by and approval of the ACC. 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 ruled 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 the achievement of performance incentives, nor may APS include savings from conservation voltage reduction in the calculation of its Lost Fixed Cost Recovery Mechanism (“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. On April 1, 2016, APS filed an amended 2016 DSM Plan that sought minor modifications to its existing DSM Plan and requested to continue the current DSMAC and current budget of $68.9 million. On August 5, 2016, the ACC approved APS’s amended DSM Plan and directed APS to spend up to an additional $4 million on a new residential demand response or load management program that facilitates energy storage technology. On December 5, 2016, APS filed for ACC approval of a $4 million Residential Demand Response, Energy Storage and Load Management Program.
On June 1, 2016, APS filed its 2017 DSM Implementation Plan, in which APS proposed programs and measures that specifically focus on reducing peak demand, shifting load to off-peak periods and educating customers about strategies to manage their energy and demand. The requested budget in the 2017 DSM Implementation Plan is $62.6 million. On January 27, 2017, APS filed an updated and modified 2017 DSM Implementation Plan that incorporated the proposed Residential Demand Response, Energy Storage and Load Management Program and the requested budget be increased to $66.6 million. On August 15, 2017, the ACC approved the 2017 DSM Plan.
On September 1, 2017, APS filed its 2018 DSM Implementation Plan, which proposes modifications to the demand side management portfolio to better meet system and customer needs by focusing on peak demand reductions, storage, load shifting and demand response programs in addition to traditional energy savings measures. The 2018 DSM Implementation Plan seeks a reduced budget of $52.6 million and requests a waiver of the energy efficiency standard for 2018.
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. On July 12, 2016, the ACC ordered that ACC staff convene a workshop within 120 days to discuss a number of issues related to the Electric Energy Efficiency Standards, including the process of determining the cost effectiveness of DSM programs and the treatment of peak demand and capacity reductions, among others. ACC staff convened the workshop on November 29, 2016 and sought public comment on potential revisions to the Electric Energy Efficiency Standards. APS cannot predict the outcome of this proceeding.
PSA Mechanism and Balance. The PSA provides for the adjustment of retail rates to reflect variations in retail fuel and purchased power costs. The following table shows the changes in the deferred fuel and purchased power regulatory asset (liability) for 2017 and 2016 (dollars in thousands):
Nine Months Ended
Deferred fuel and purchased power costs — current period
Amounts refunded/(charged) to customers
The PSA rate for the PSA year beginning February 1, 2017 was $(0.001348) per kWh, as compared to $0.001678 per kWh for the prior year. This rate was comprised of a forward component of $(0.001027) per kWh and a historical component of $(0.000321) per kWh. On August 19, 2017 the PSA rate was revised to $0.000555 per kWh. This new rate is comprised of a forward component of $0.000876 per kWh and a historical component of $(0.000321) per kWh.
Transmission Rates, Transmission Cost Adjustor ("TCA") and Other Transmission Matters. In July 2008, the United States Federal Energy Regulatory Commission ("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, 2016, APS's annual wholesale transmission rates for all users of its transmission system increased by approximately $24.9 million for the twelve-month period beginning June 1, 2016 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, 2016.
Effective June 1, 2017, APS's annual wholesale transmission rates for all users of its transmission system increased by approximately $35.1 million for the twelve-month period beginning June 1, 2017 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, 2017.
On January 31, 2017, APS made a filing to reduce the Post-Employment Benefits Other than Pension expense reflected in its FERC transmission formula rate calculation to recognize certain savings resulting from plan design changes to the other postretirement benefit plans. A transmission customer intervened and protested certain aspects of APS’s filing. FERC initiated a proceeding under Section 206 of the Federal Power Act to evaluate the justness and reasonableness of the revised formula rate filing APS proposed. APS entered into a settlement agreement with the intervening transmission customer, which was filed with FERC for approval on September 26, 2017. The proceeding is still pending before FERC. At this time, APS is unable to predict the outcome of this proceeding.
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 filed its 2016 annual LFCR adjustment on January 15, 2016, requesting an LFCR adjustment of $46.4 million (a $7.9 million annual increase). The ACC approved the 2016 annual LFCR effective beginning in May 2016. APS filed its 2017 LFCR adjustment on January 13, 2017 requesting an LFCR adjustment of $63.7 million (a $17.3 million per year increase over 2016 levels). On April 5, 2017, the ACC approved the 2017 annual LFCR adjustment as filed, effective with the first billing cycle of April 2017. Because the LFCR mechanism has a balancing account that trues up any under or over recoveries, a one or two month delay in implementation does not have an adverse effect on APS.
Tax Expense Adjustor Mechanism (“TEAM”). As part of the 2017 Settlement Agreement, the parties agreed to a rate adjustment mechanism to address potential federal income tax reform. In the event that federal income tax reform legislation is enacted and effective prior to the conclusion of APS’s next general rate case, and such legislation impacts APS’s annual revenue requirement by more than $5 million, the TEAM enables the pass-through of certain income tax effects to customers. The impact to APS’s annual revenue requirement will be measured as the change in income tax expense resulting from any change to the statutory rate, the annual amortization of any resulting excess deferred income taxes, and/or the tax effects of any permanent income tax adjustments that may be included in the enacted legislation (such as limitations on interest deductibility).
In 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 was held in April 2016. On October 7, 2016, the Administrative Law Judge issued a recommendation in the docket concerning the value and cost of distributed generation ("DG") solar installations. On December 20, 2016, the ACC completed its open meeting to consider the recommended decision by the Administrative Law Judge. After making several amendments, the ACC approved the recommended decision by a 4-1 vote. As a result of the ACC’s action, effective as of APS’s 2017 rate case decision, the current net metering tariff that governs payments for energy exported to the grid from rooftop solar systems was replaced by a more formula-driven approach that utilizes inputs from historical wholesale solar power costs and eventually an avoided cost methodology.
As amended, the decision provides that payments by utilities for energy exported to the grid from DG solar facilities will be determined using a resource comparison proxy methodology, a method that is based on the price that APS pays for utility-scale solar projects on a five year rolling average, while a forecasted avoided cost methodology is being developed. The price established by this resource comparison proxy method will be updated annually (between rate cases) but will not be decreased by more than 10% per year. Once the avoided cost methodology is developed, the ACC will determine in APS's subsequent rate cases which method (or a combination of methods) is appropriate to determine the actual price to be paid by APS for exported distributed energy.
In addition, the ACC made the following determinations:
Customers who have interconnected a DG system or submitted an application for interconnection for DG systems prior August 19, 2017, the date new rates were effective based on APS's 2017 rate case, will be grandfathered for a period of 20 years from the date the customer’s interconnection application was accepted by the utility;
Customers with DG solar systems are to be considered a separate class of customers for ratemaking purposes; and
Once an export price is set for APS, no netting or banking of retail credits will be available for new DG customers, and the then-applicable export price will be guaranteed for new customers for a period of 10 years.
This decision of the ACC addresses policy determinations only. The decision states that its principles will be applied in future rate cases, and the policy determinations themselves may be subject to future change, as are all ACC policies. A first-year export energy price of 12.9 cents per kWh is included in the 2017 Settlement Agreement and became effective on August 19, 2017.
On January 23, 2017, The Alliance for Solar Choice ("TASC") sought rehearing of the ACC's decision regarding the value and cost of DG. TASC asserted that the ACC improperly ignored the Administrative Procedure Act, failed to give adequate notice regarding the scope of the proceedings, and relied on information that was not submitted as evidence, among other alleged defects. TASC filed a Notice of Appeal in the Court of Appeals and filed a Complaint and Statutory Appeal in the Maricopa County Superior Court on March 10, 2017. As part of the 2017 Settlement Agreement described above, TASC agreed to withdraw these appeals when the ACC decision implementing the 2017 Settlement Agreement is no longer subject to appellate review.
System Benefits Charge
The 2012 Settlement Agreement provided that once APS achieved full funding of its decommissioning obligation under the sale leaseback agreements covering Unit 2 of Palo Verde, APS was required to implement a reduced System Benefits charge effective January 1, 2016. Beginning on January 1, 2016, APS began implementing a reduced System Benefits charge. The impact on APS retail revenues from the new System Benefits charge is an overall reduction of approximately $14.6 million per year with a corresponding reduction in depreciation and amortization expense. This adjustment is subsumed within the 2017 Settlement Agreement and its associated revenue requirement.
Subpoena from Arizona Corporation Commissioner Robert Burns
On August 25, 2016, Commissioner Burns, individually and not by action of the ACC as a whole, filed subpoenas in APS’s then current retail rate proceeding to APS and Pinnacle West for the production of records and information relating to a range of expenditures from 2011 through 2016. The subpoenas requested information concerning marketing and advertising expenditures, charitable donations, lobbying expenses, contributions to 501(c)(3) and (c)(4) nonprofits and political contributions. The return date for the production of information was set as September 15, 2016. The subpoenas also sought testimony from Company personnel having knowledge of the material, including the Chief Executive Officer.
On September 9, 2016, APS filed with the ACC a motion to quash the subpoenas or, alternatively to stay APS's obligations to comply with the subpoenas and decline to decide APS's motion pending court proceedings. Contemporaneously with the filing of this motion, APS and Pinnacle West filed a complaint for special action and declaratory judgment in the Superior Court of Arizona for Maricopa County, seeking a declaratory judgment that Commissioner Burns’ subpoenas are contrary to law. On September 15, 2016, APS produced all non-confidential and responsive documents and offered to produce any remaining responsive documents that are confidential after an appropriate confidentiality agreement is signed.
On February 7, 2017, Commissioner Burns opened a new ACC docket and indicated that its purpose is to study and rectify problems with transparency and disclosure regarding financial contributions from regulated monopolies or other stakeholders who may appear before the ACC that may directly or indirectly benefit an ACC Commissioner, a candidate for ACC Commissioner, or key ACC staff. As part of this docket, Commissioner Burns set March 24, 2017 as a deadline for the production of all information previously requested through the subpoenas. Neither APS nor Pinnacle West produced the information requested and instead objected to the subpoena. On March 10, 2017, Commissioner Burns filed suit against APS and Pinnacle West in an effort to enforce his subpoenas. On March 30, 2017, APS filed a motion to dismiss Commissioner Burns' suit against APS and Pinnacle West. In response to the motion to dismiss, the court stayed the suit and ordered Commissioner Burns to file a motion to compel the production of the information sought by the subpoenas with the ACC. On June 20, 2017, the ACC denied the motion to compel. On August 4, 2017, Commissioner Burns amended his complaint to add all of the ACC Commissioners and the ACC itself. All defendants have moved to dismiss the complaint. Oral argument at the Superior Court of Arizona for Maricopa County is scheduled for December 19, 2017. APS and Pinnacle West cannot predict the outcome of this matter.
In addition to the Superior Court of Arizona for Maricopa County proceedings discussed above, on August 20, 2017, Commissioner Burns filed a special action petition in the Arizona Supreme Court seeking to vacate the ACC's order approving the settlement so that alleged issues of disqualification and bias on the part of the other Commissioners can be fully investigated. APS opposed the petition, and on October 17, 2017, the Arizona Supreme Court declined to accept jurisdiction over Commissioner Burns’ special action petition.
On December 30, 2013, APS purchased Southern California Edison Company's ("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 $58 million as of September 30, 2017 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 suspended the appeal pending the Arizona Supreme Court's decision in the System Improvement Benefits ("SIB") matter. The Arizona Court of Appeals reversed an ACC rate decision involving a water company regarding the ACC’s method of finding fair value in that case, which 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, on August 8, 2016, the Arizona Supreme Court vacated the Court of Appeals opinion and affirmed the ACC’s orders approving the water company’s SIB adjustor. The Arizona Court of Appeals ordered supplemental briefing on how that SIB decision should affect the challenge to the Four Corners rate adjustment. Supplemental briefing has been completed and the Arizona Court of Appeals heard oral argument on this matter on September 14, 2017. On September 26, 2017, the Court of Appeals affirmed the ACC's decision on the Four Corners rate adjustment.
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. 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 established a regulatory asset of $12 million in 2015 in connection with the payment required under the terms of the Transmission Agreement. On July 1, 2016, FERC issued an order denying APS’s request to recover the regulatory asset through its FERC-jurisdictional rates. APS and SCE completed the termination of the Transmission Agreement on July 6, 2016. APS made the required payment to SCE and wrote-off the $12 million regulatory asset and charged operating revenues to reflect the effects of this order in the second quarter of 2016. On July 29, 2016, APS filed a request for rehearing with FERC. In its order denying recovery FERC also referred to its enforcement division a question of whether the agreement between APS and SCE relating to the settlement of obligations under the Transmission Agreement was a jurisdictional contract that should have been filed with FERC. On October 5, 2017, FERC issued an order denying APS's request for rehearing. FERC also upheld its prior determination that the agreement relating to the settlement was a jurisdictional contract and should have been filed with FERC. APS is currently considering next steps and cannot predict whether or if the enforcement division will take any action.
On September 11, 2014, APS announced that it would close Unit 2 of the Cholla Power Plant ("Cholla") 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. In early 2017, EPA approved a final rule incorporating APS's compromise proposal, which took effect on April 26, 2017.
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. Pursuant to the 2017 Settlement Agreement described above, APS will be allowed continued recovery of the net book value of the unit and the unit’s decommissioning and other retirement-related costs ($109 million as of September 30, 2017), 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.
The co-owners of the Navajo Generating Station (the "Navajo Plant") and the Navajo Nation agreed that the Navajo Plant will remain in operation until December 2019 under the existing plant lease, at which time a new lease will allow for decommissioning activities to begin after December 2019 instead of later this year. The new lease was approved by the Navajo Nation Tribal Council on June 26, 2017. Certain additional approvals are required for specific co-owners, which are expected to occur by late 2017. Various stakeholders including regulators, tribal representatives, the plant's coal supplier and the U.S. Department of the Interior have been meeting to determine if an alternate solution can be reached that would permit continued operation of the plant beyond 2019. Although we cannot predict whether any alternate plans will be found that would be acceptable to all of the stakeholders and feasible to implement, we believe it is probable that the Navajo Plant will cease operations in December 2019.
On February 14, 2017, the ACC opened a docket titled "ACC Investigation Concerning the Future of the Navajo Generating Station" with the stated goal of engaging stakeholders and negotiating a sustainable pathway for the Navajo Plant to continue operating in some form after December 2019. APS cannot predict the outcome of this proceeding.
APS is currently recovering depreciation and a return on the net book value of its interest in the Navajo Plant over its previously estimated life through 2026. APS will seek continued recovery in rates for the book value of its remaining investment in the plant ($102 million as of September 30, 2017) plus a return on the net book value as well as other costs related to retirement and closure, which are still being assessed and which may be material. APS believes it will be allowed recovery of the net book value, in addition to a return on its investment. In accordance with GAAP, in the second quarter of 2017, APS's remaining net book value of its interest in the Navajo Plant 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 this interest, 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):
September 30, 2017
December 31, 2016
Retired power plant costs
Income taxes — allowance for funds used during construction ("AFUDC") equity
Deferred fuel and purchased power — mark-to-market (Note 6)
Deferred fuel and purchased power (b) (d)
Four Corners cost deferral
Income taxes — investment tax credit basis adjustment
Lost fixed cost recovery (b)
Palo Verde VIEs (Note 5)
Deferred property taxes
Loss on reacquired debt
Tax expense of Medicare subsidy
Demand Side Management
Mead-Phoenix transmission line CIAC
Transmission cost adjustor (b)
Total regulatory assets (c)
See Note 4 for further discussion.
See "Cost Recovery Mechanisms" discussion above.
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."
Subject to a carrying charge.
The detail of regulatory liabilities is as follows (dollars in thousands):
September 30, 2017
December 31, 2016
Asset retirement obligations
Other postretirement benefits
Income taxes — deferred investment tax credit
Income taxes — change in rates
Spent nuclear fuel
Renewable energy standard (c)
Demand side management (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 4 for further discussion.
See "Cost Recovery Mechanisms" discussion above.