El Paso case could shape the future of rooftop solar in Texas
The El Paso City Council has joined a growing list of opponents of a proposed electric rate increase that, the city says, would disproportionately affect the rising number of rooftop solar customers in the far reaches of West Texas.
El Paso Electric, the investor-owned utility that serves the area and parts of New Mexico, has proposed a new rate structure that would separate thousands of rooftop solar panel owners into their own rate class. The proposal would also put additional charges on those customers’ bills to help recoup losses resulting from less electricity moving through the company’s power lines. El Paso has around 2,800 customers with rooftop solar, a small portion of its more than 276,000 residential customers.
This is the second time since 2015 that El Paso Electric has tried to separate rooftop solar customers into their own rate class. The last proposal was dropped after it was hotly contested by clean energy advocates.
The Public Utility Commission will begin hearings in the case on Monday, a process that could shape policy on electric rates for rooftop solar around the state. Rooftop solar is growing, including in Houston, where a handful of companies have entered the market, and utilities and retail electric companies in Texas are trying to adapt to a world where they compete with their own customers to deliver energy.
Utilities, in particular, will likely look to the PUC to determine their right to recover the costs of maintaining transmission lines that provide power to rooftop solar customers when the sun isn’t shining.
El Paso Electric has proposed another rate increase in targeting solar panel users, and a chorus of opposition has again risen from environmentalists, elected officials and El Paso electric customers…..