It was a slam dunk to get El Paso City Council to say "no" to the El Paso Electric Company's proposed rate hikes. It will be a whole different game with the Public Utility Commission of Texas. They are supposed to take up EPEC's case on January 15, 2016. Such cases usually take 30 days.
The El Paso Times reported yesterday (PUC staff: Electric rate request $17M too high) that a PUCT staff report recommended a lower rate hike. However, "[t]he PUC staff also allowed the utility to keep its proposed new rate class for residential customers with rooftop solar systems, which would increase those customers' electric rates more than regular residential customers. That proposal is being fought by solar-system installers, homeowners with solar systems and others."
Jim Schwarzbach of El Paso Title commented on Facebook today:
"In Friday's PUC filings, there is one staff recommendation that is troublesome. Brian T. Murphy, a Senior Rate Analyst in the Tariff and Rate Analysis Section of the Rate Regulation Division gave direct testimony on 12/18.
"In this direct testimony he clearly states that he thinks the city/county and university rate classes should go away, but he never mentions partial rate class by name. However, when asked if he supports the Company's proposed classes for the purpose of cost allocation he states 'Yes' without hesitation. He also states that:
"'It is equally important to adjust rate components in the rate design phase to address intra-class subsidies so that the charges experienced by customers within a class are more representative of cost. When customers within a class have not been bearing their fair share cost, it is appropriate to change the rate structure by adjusting the relationships among the existing rate components, or by introducing new, more accurate rate components, so that the charges experienced by customers more accurately represent the costs incurred by the utility to provide services to the customers.'
"I think that statement is his way of saying the residential rate class should be split into solar and non-solar, but he doesn't have the scrotal contents to come out and say it.
"I'm hoping that more staff direct testimony will be filed in the next few days. I also hope these are just recommendations and that the solar penalty known as partial requirement services can be thrown out—but I would have felt a lot better if Brian Murphy had come out against EPEC trying to kill solar."
All of this means that more than ever before, the people of El Paso must make it clear that they want the rooftop solar industry to be protected and they want it to grow with more incentives for people of all incomes to go solar.
The good news is that "U.S. lawmakers agreed to extend tax credits for solar and wind for another five years. This will give an unprecedented boost to the industry and change the course of deployment in the U.S." See Bloomberg Business report, What Just Happened in Solar Is a Bigger Deal Than Oil Exports. (Be sure to watch the video.)
Eco El Paso is a non-profit leading the fight for the rooftop solar industry and user here in El Paso against EPEC's attempt to destroy that industry. Board member, Shelby Ruff, urged people to write the PUC in this email:
"Eco El Paso needs your help!
"We are intervening against El Paso Electric at the Public Utility Commission (PUC) of Texas to stop them from raising our electric rates and attacking solar homeowners by creating a new rate class that penalizes solar homeowners.
"PLEASE WRITE A LETTER TO THE PUC of TEXAS TODAY! Tell them NO to rate hikes and attacks on solar homeowners.
"Public Utility Commission of Texas
Attn: Filing Clerk
Rate Case #44941
1701 N. Congress Ave.
Austin, TX 78711-3326"
Be sure to donate whatever you can to Eco El Paso.
Also visit Citizens Against El Paso Electric's Attack on Solar on Facebook.
The really hard work begins now.