Last night, in San Antonio’s beautiful council chambers, members of the ReEnergize San Antonio coalition — including several representatives of Sierra Club — told the City Council “NO” on the rate increase proposed by CPS Energy, unless significant additional investments in energy efficiency, solar and weatherization were made as part of the rate increase.
CPS Energy is proposing to raise rates by 4.25% across the board on all residential, commercial and industrial customers, even as the municipal utility grows in accounts and sales. Part of the reason for the rate increase appears to be legitimate — new needed transmission, meter and environmental regulatory upgrades. But the ReEnergize Coalition argued last night that much more could be done to lower the impact of the proposed rate increase.
Local Sierra Club members Terry Burns and Meredith McGuire spoke eloquently about the need to invest in clean power and energy efficiency and look at the concept of tiered rates — where those using more would pay a higher rate while those using a minimum amount could actually see lower rates. Terry Burns also spoke about the need for community solar. Several members of the coalition like Antonio Diaz and Karen Hadden — with the SEED Coalition — spoke of the dangers of continued investments in the aging and failing South Texas Nuclear Power Plant, while Marisol Cortez of the People Power Coalition and Diana Lopez of Southwest Workers spoke about the need to redouble efforts on the Casa Verde weatherization program, using a neighborhood “Promotora” model, and to invest in community solar for working San Antonians so they could enjoy the benefits of solar power. Tom “Smitty” Smith from Public Citizen spoke about the fact that the original STEP Goal of 771 MWs was made based on budgetary considerations because it was thought it would cost more than it does and that 1221 MWs as originally proposed by KEMA was achievable. Indeed, when the original KEMA report came out, an LED light was prohibitively expensive, while today they can be purchased for the same amount as a compact flourescent light.
City Council members are expected to consider the CPS Energy rate increase today at City Hall.
Below are comments made by Cyrus Reed, Conservation Director of the Lone Star Chapter:
I am here on behalf of the Lone Star Chapter of the Sierra Club and we are part of the ReEnergize San Antonio Coalition calling for 13 demands to make CPS Energy a true clean energy leader focussed on affordable service and energy conservation before any rate increase is approved. We have some good news. CPS Energy has lowered their rate request from 4.75% to 4.25%, they have put more information on their website about the rates and how they impact each customer class, and they have notified ERCOT in writing that they do intend to close the Dirty Deely plant by 2018.
I have four issues I want to raise. First, city council should and must increase STEP – the Saving Tomorrow’s Energy Program — which has been so successful. We did it once in 2009, setting a goal of 771 MWs by 2020 in energy reduction. If you look at the response to your questions by CPS Energy on October 14th, you will see that the existence of STEP is what is allowing CPS Energy to close the Dirty Deely coal plant. You should also know that CPS Energy will already meet half of their 2020 goal by the end of the year. We are meeting the goal faster and at a lower cost than expected.
Now is the time to increase the goal. THe original Kema study found that you could meet 1200 MWs of demand reduction by 2020 –economically and technically. It was feasible. Let’s do this, and raise the goals and increase all of the programs, including community solar.
Second, as part of this goal, CPS Energy must redouble its efforts to weatherize homes. 6000 homes a year is good, but it is only a start and the goal should be doubled and CPS Energy must work with SAWS to do gas, electric and water conservation at the same time.
Third, CPS ENergy should look at tiered rates. In Austin, we just went through a rate case and are doing five tiered rates. That may be too much and too complicated, but going from one rate to three rates depending on the amount used would be a good start. At the very least, City Council should direct CPS Energy to conduct a study on tiered rates to see its impacts on affordability, revenues and energy use.
Finally, and this is really independent of the rate discussion, City COuncil should and must update San Antonio’s energy code. Austin has done it, Houston is doing it and San Antonio must do it. San Antonio is currently under the 2009 IECC code and going to the 2012 IECC codes would save 10 to 15% in energy costs for the average homeowner. This is an action City Council could take that would lower the impact of any proposed rate increase.”
We hope City Council and CPS Energy does the right thing, and require significant new investments in conservation, energy efficiency, community solar and demand response before any rate increase is approved. Stay tuned…