By Robert Moss,  
Eco El Paso board  member

El Paso is again “The Sun City,” but it now has an opportunity to be “SolSmart” too.

In a surprising settlement of its rate case in Texas, El Paso Electric in August completely withdrew its proposed fees on the sun.

EPE had in August 2015 proposed a new rate structure that would have caused its residential customers to be separated into two residential rate classes: those with solar and those without. Under that proposal, unwarranted charges would have penalized customers who had made investments in rooftop solar for using clean energy from the sun.

The utility, following recent moves by other monopoly utilities, had falsely asserted that the solar customers were not paying their fair share and were shifting costs to other, poorer customers. Fortunately for customers in El Paso, the city’s leaders, the Office of Public Utility Counsel, Eco El Paso and other intervenors waged an effective legal battle to discourage the unjustly discriminatory rate structure.

Adding to news settling the rate case, EPE announced it had sold the last remaining coal from its generating portfolio, while highlighting its increasing investment in renewable energy. Provided the company maintains this path, these pronouncements provide EPE an opportunity to further demonstrate leadership in support of sustainable systems.

The City of El Paso also has an opportunity to make the most of the recent gains in support of the environment. On September 26, the  federal SolSmart program announced the first 22 communities to receive recognition. SolSmart is a Department of Energy program that acknowledges communities working to make it easier to go solar. Cities are recognized with three designation levels, gold, silver and bronze.

Austin, a gold-level designee, is the only city recognized as a SolSmart Community in Texas and New Mexico. The El Paso community should seek designation as a SolSmart community.

This would affirm El Paso, the Sun City, as a leader in a future powered by solar energy. Many jobs in renewable energy are still on the line in El Paso, so acting now to solidify the region’s support for these jobs is a must.Let’s encourage El Paso to demonstrate leadership and become a SolSmart community.

To contribute to the great work Eco El Paso is doing to defend and promote renewable energy in El Paso, please donate at https://www.eco-elpaso.org/donate/.

Victory: El Paso Electric revokes anti-solar plan