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CPS Energy, solar industry will work together on SunCredit program
By Tracy Idell Hamilton on May 9, 2013
CPS Energy has agreed to delay changes to its rooftop solar net metering program for one year as it works with local installers to come up with an equitable solution.
The announcement came late Wednesday, just days after CPS Energy hosted a town hall meeting with installers and other members of the solar community.
The utility will form a working group that will include installers and other stakeholders to craft a program that fairly compensates those who install rooftop solar for the power their systems produce, while at the same time taking into account fixed infrastructure and other costs.
“We’ve heard the industry’s concerns on a number of issues,” said Cris Eugster, CPS Energy’s executive vice president and chief strategy and technology officer, “and we’re looking forward to working with them on a program that will allow for a viable rooftop solar industry, while at the same time being fair to all customers.”
CPS Energy remains committed to distributed solar power. Its rebate for rooftop systems is one of the most robust in the country. It has already paid out roughly $20 million of $40 million budgeted by 2020.
But as solar prices continue to fall, and more systems are installed, CPS Energy must make sure all customers are still paying to maintain infrastructure, upgrade technology, enable a smart grid and expand energy efficiency programs, Eugster said.
San Antonio’s utility is hardly alone as it grapples with how to cost-effectively integrate distributed solar into its grid and business model. Utilities across the country are making changes to their solar programs. Austin Energy, in fact, announced a reduction in its rebate for rooftop solar just yesterday, from $2 to $1.50 per watt.
Additionally, Austin Energy will be reviewing its “value of solar” to determine the price it will pay per kWh produced for fiscal year 2014.
Austin and San Antonio lead Texas, by a large margin, in solar installations, including rooftop solar, with 11 MW and +10 MW installed, respectively.
Lanny Sinkin, executive director of Solar San Antonio, which has helped nurture and grow the rooftop solar industry here, expressed support for CPS Energy’s decision.
“We appreciate having adequate time to explore many of the energy challenges facing our community,” he said. “We look forward to working with CPS Energy to develop solutions that benefit the entire community, including a robust distributed solar industry.”