San Antonio Utility’s 2nd Power Grab

San Antonio at night

As we reported last April 2013 San Antonio’s municipal utility, CPS Energy, attempted an unjustified rollback of its net metering program. Public outcry was such that the utility quickly decided to shelve their proposal, and instead “study” the impacts of distributed solar over the next several months.  But now they are at it again, proposing a harmful new fixed fee for solar customers that is not cost-justified and would be the highest of their kind in the nation.

Back in April 2013, local groups, such as Solar San Antonio and national groups like Vote Solar took the utility to task for presenting an analysis of the ‘net impact’ of net metering that included almost zero of the benefits that this foundational solar policy generates. Using their flawed internal analysis, CPS’s April 2013 proposal called for a wholesale replacement of net metering with a buy-all, sell-all crediting program that would have offered solar customers roughly $0.056 cents per kilowatt-hour (kWh) for their solar production. Not only does that arrangement amount to 44 percent less than the credit customers receive under net metering, it also takes away the customer’s choice to meet their own electricity needs with self-generation – something we consider a fundamental solar right.

After the buy-all, sell-all proposal was put on the back burner, local groups stepped up to fill the analysis gap.  Clean Power Research was hired to do a Value of Solar study (PDF) (VoS Study). The VoS study was funded by the Department of Energy through the City of San Antonio and supervised by Solar San Antonio. The study showed that distributed solar in San Antonio offers a total leveled value ranges from $15.1 cents per kWh to $15.8, demonstrating the distributed solar offers significantly higher  benefits to ratepayers than CPS’s internal analysis showed.

Fast forward to today, and CPS Energy is again attempting to implement a harmful proposal that is again not cost-justified and not supported by sound analysis. CPS plans to file a proposal with the City Council later this month to levy a monthly “Facilities charge” and  a “Commissioning fee” on all future distributed solar generation adopters. While the exact details are confidential, together these proposed fees would be the highest fixed fees for solar customers in the nation and would almost certainly devastate the growth of rooftop solar investment in San Antonio. In Arizona, where a similarly unjustified fee of $0.70 cents per kilowatt was implemented last year, adoption of solar has slowed considerably with applications to install solar falling by half from Q1 2014 compared to Q1 2013.

Vote Solar is urging San Antonio’s City Council and Mayor Castro, to oppose these unjustified fees and instead undertake a comprehensive cost and benefit analysis of distributed solar. CPR’s 2013 VoS Study is a great starting point. If the City Council believes that – rather than using the CPR findings – a new study should be undertaken, we are recommending that they direct CPS to use the Interstate Renewable Energy Council’s (“IREC”), A Regulator’s Guidebook: Calculating the Benefits and Costs of Distributed Solar Generation, as a roadmap.

Considering the many benefits of individual investment in solar power, CPS Energy should be supporting customer solar adoption – not penalizing them for it.

JOIN THE MOVEMENT Sign up for updates from Vote Solar on solar progress and energy justice across the U.S.