tell EPE no to rate hikes

By Mona Blaber

El Paso Electric’s proposed rate increase for El Paso customers is moving forward to administrative-law judges and the Texas Public Utilities Commission after a non-unanimous settlement with the city of El Paso, which had rejected the company’s rate proposals last year.

Yet to be litigated are terms regarding solar charges and the costs to exit Four Corners Power Plant.

The orginal proposal would have raised most EPE customers’ rates by about 10% but put solar customers into a separate rate class and raised their rates about double that. The proposed settlement no longer segregates solar users in a separate rate class.

However, the proposed settlement would add an $11 monthly fee for new solar customers. That fee is being challenged by solar advocates. Although EPE and other utilities claim these fees are to make up for solar users’ costs to the system, every independent study has shown that solar customers reduce costs for utilities and other customers, in part because they provide energy to the grid at peak demand times.

Southwestern Public Service, which serves Eastern New Mexico customers, has already imposed a standby fee for solar users. In its current rate case, SPS proposes to increase that per-Kwh fee but structure it in a fairer way, charging for potential load rather than potential generation from solar systems. Solar advocates are hopeful they can stop the increase in the charge per Kwh and support SPS’s improvement to the structure. SPS has to rejustify this charge every three years, so next year solar advocates will have the opportunity to require SPS to prove this fee is legitimate. Utilities’ claims to justify these solar fees so far have not been supported by evidence.

Contact riogrande.chapter@sierraclub.org to stay updated on the EPE case for El Paso.

Solar fees argued in EPE, SPS rate cases