Texas city council rejects El Paso Electric proposed rate hike, solar fees

Dive Brief:

  • The city council of El Paso, Texas rejected a proposed rate increase that would have hiked average summer bills more than 10%, alongside other controversial changes including new fees for solar customers.
  • Local ABC affiliate KVIA reports the utility is expected to appeal the decision to the Public Utilities Commission of Texas.
  • The utility in February proposed to recover $42.5 million related to the completion of the Montana Power Station and other upgrades, as well as new fees that could add up to $14/month for residents with solar panels on their roof.

Dive Insight:

KVIA reports the rate case will likely not be finalized until November because the utility will almost certainly appeal to state regulators. 

The utility "will undoubtedly file an appeal with the public utility commission and we will slug it out at the Public Utility Commission in August," Norman Gordon, of Outside Council to for the city, told the television station. 

In addition to upgrades at the quick-start gas facility, which would be used to integrate more renewables onto the system, El Paso's proposal included fees that Gordon said were "controversial."

The new rates would have been costly in particular for distributed generation customers: Residents with solar panels on their roof could have seen rates go up $14/month, while a standard residential customer would have seen rates rise $7-$10/month depending on the season, and summer rates would have risen more than $9/month. The average customer currently pays close to $83/month.

According to the utility, the investments are necessary to meet demand; over the 2016 summer, the utility hit a record peak that was 5.5% higher than the peak established in 2015—or more than 90 MW greater.

"We spend a lot of time planning how to best meet the demands created by the continued growth of our region, and these latest investments will benefit our customers well into the future,” CEO Mary Kipp said in a statement earlier this year introducing the rate proposal.

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