CPS Energy presented to the San Antonio City Council Wednesday updates on two key projects: CPS Energy’s Smart Grid Initiative and a proposal for revising and expanding the program for distributed solar energy.
Executive Vice President, Chief Generation & Strategy Officer Cris Eugster first gave an overview of the plan to install 740,000 electric meters and 320,000 new gas meters across Greater San Antonio from August 2014 through 2018, as well as the installation of a wireless communications network and other utility infrastructure.
On completion of the project, customers will enjoy greater reliability and privacy, and more information about their energy use, which will help them control their bills. Council members were interested in future services enabled by the smart grid and advocated for robust education for customers. Several suggested that CPS Energy should not offer customers the ability to opt-out, and Eugster pointed to the alignment of the program with industry best practice and Public Utility Commission of Texas guidelines.
Council members also heard a presentation from Eugster on a proposal to expand the plan for solar in San Antonio, including $20 million more in rebates for solar. That’s on top of the $40 million that’s been committed to rooftop solar from 2009 through 2014. The money will come from CPS Energy’s Save for Tomorrow Energy Plan (STEP), which is reducing energy use at San Antonio homes and businesses through rebates, energy efficiency, and other measures.
To make solar available to even more customers, CPS Energy is working on a community solar program. Growing in popularity around the country, these programs allow for joint ownership of solar for people who can’t afford their own systems, who rent, or whose own rooftops are not suitable for a system.
Additionally, Eugster presented a recommendation for the separation of solar incentives (rebates and the purchase of excess power produced, known as net metering) from the need to recover the cost of service for solar customers through a one-time connection fee and a monthly charge of 50 cents per kilowatt of capacity (about $2.50 per month, or $30 per year, for the average residential solar installation).
After discussion with Council, we have elected to postpone a vote on these proposed changes and plan to follow up with council members over the next few weeks to answer questions about funding for program expansion, the basis for cost recovery and feedback on efficiency from a range of customers and stakeholders.