New Solar Fees Proposed in San Antonio
The municipal electric utility seeks new charges for photovoltaic systems but also wants to offer $21 million in PV incentives
Trustees of San Antonio's municipally owned electric utility have approved a plan to award $21 million in new solar rebates, retain the current net-metering rules for rooftop photovoltaic(PV) Generation of electricity directly from sunlight. A photovoltaic cell has no moving parts; electrons are energized by sunlight and result in current flow. (PVPhotovoltaics. Generation of electricity directly from sunlight. A photovoltaic (PV) cell has no moving parts; electrons are energized by sunlight and result in current flow.) systems, and develop a solar leasing program for utility customers who are unable to install their own PV systems.
At the same time, the CPS Energy Board of Trustees wants two new fees to pay for it: a one-time $450 interconnect charge for new residential systems, plus a monthly fee of $1 per kW of PV capacity. Existing customers would be grandfathered.
The plan needs the approval of the San Antonio City Council before it can take effect. A vote is likely in June.
CPS Executive Vice President Cris Eugster told trustees that solar is a "centerpiece" of the utility's strategy for the future, according to a post at the CPS Energy website.
"But," the account continued, "the utility must transition from an incentive-based model to one more market based if it is to be sustainable as more customers put solar on their rooftops."
Echoing arguments made by utilities around the country, the CPS post said solar customers were using the grid as a type of storage battery, "but they don't pay anything toward the cost of maintaining that grid or other necessary infrastructure."
Utilitydive reported Solar San Antonio Executive Director Lanny Sinkin said the plan would "heavily suppress solar sales," while Mayor Julian Castro said the proposed fees are "no way a done deal."
Rebates worth an average of $10,000
Under current rebate rules, rooftop solar installations are eligible for rebates of $1.60 per AC watt, CPS project manager Tracy Hamilton said by telephone. The average residential rebate is about $10,000 and the average commercial rebate is about $60,000 she said.
In all, CPS says it has paid out $30 million since 2008.
CPS wants to add another 25 mega watts of distributed generation to the 15 MW already on line. Rebates would continue at the $1.60/watt level for the next 10 MW, then decline as solar prices continue to fall.
Euster told the board that a 5.6 kW solar system now has a "simple payback" of nine years, which would increase to 10 years with the new fees.
- Jon Callas
May 26, 2014 9:53 AM ET
May 26, 2014 4:56 PM ET