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Choose between 2 APS cost-recovery fee options

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PHOENIX (CBS5) -

APS customers have been expressing their outrage over a new surcharge. There is no getting around paying this fee - it will hit your bill in March - but you do have options.

CBS 5 recently reported on the notification that came in your last bill. APS says that "because more customers are installing renewable energy systems, APS is selling less electricity." The utility says this charge is necessary because "fixed costs haven't changed."

You may not be over your outrage, but you do need to figure out how you want to pay the fee.

"It was confusing," Nancy Joplin said.

APS is offering all its customers, like Joplin, two different ways to pay the new cost-recovery charge that takes effect this March and continues for four years - there's variable or flat.

"First, I wasn't sure why they were even doing it, and second I didn't know which option would be better for me," Joplin said.

The variable option will be .29 percent of your bill for the next year - or about 38 cents a month. That percentage will change every 12 months, but Joplin says it makes sense for her.

"Because I'm a low user, doing the percentage is best, but I did ask APS that if at any point that changes, could I change my mind and go to the flat fee, and they said I could," Joplin said.

Low and average users will definitely do better on the variable option this year. Low users will probably do better in future years too. But APS spokesman Jim McDonald says if average to high-use customers want a sense of certainty for years two, three and four, they may want to consider the fixed option.

"The fixed option is $2.75 per month and it'll stay fixed until the next time we have a rate case - that will be in 2016," McDonald said.

Customers can switch to the other option at any time, but APS says they can't switch again for another 12 months. APS isn't recommending either option, but under these rules, the variable option seems to be best for most customers in year one.

"This year it's 38 cents for the average APS customer," McDonald said.

"It's not a lot of money, but it is the principal of them taking money from consumers who are being responsible," Joplin said.

Joplin is still sore, like many customers, because APS says this charge is necessary essentially because energy-efficiency is up and revenues are down.

If you're wondering about a cap on that variable rate - it does have one. It can go up a maximum of 1 percent per year - so the most it could be next year would be 1.29 percent. APS says it's highly unlikely to go up that much.  Customers may have seen 26 cents on their APS insert - that was a preliminary number for the variable charge. The updated figure is 38 cents.

So again, for the average customer, at least for years one and two - the variable rate seems better.  But remember, average use is 1110 kilowatts per month.  So check your bill and see if you're considered an "average use" customer.  Also, customers must "opt in" for the fixed rate plan.  If you don't specifically request that plan, APS will automatically choose the variable plan for you.

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