On August 10, 2015, El Paso Electric (EPE) filed a proposed rate increase for all customers in its Texas service territory. As part of this filing, EPE is proposing to create a new customer class, Partial Requirements. This class is for residential customers who generate power on-site (i.e. rooftop solar customers).
The average monthly bill for rooftop solar customers is $45. Under the new proposal, EPE estimates the average customer will see a bill increase of approximately $12 per month. As of March 31, 2015, EPE served approximately 269,900 residential customers in Texas, of which, approximately 522 residential customers generate power at home through residential solar systems.
“As a company that truly believes in the benefits of solar power generation that benefits all customers, EPE more than doubled its solar generation portfolio since 2014 and is seeking approval from the Public Utility Commission of Texas for our Community Solar pilot program for those customers who cannot afford solar panels or do not want them on their roofs,” said Tom Shockley, El Paso Electric CEO.
Although rooftop solar customers generate power at home, they are still connected to the distribution grid, which provides them with energy during cloudy days and at night, or whenever additional power is needed. This connection to the grid is essential to the net energy metering which allows customers to realize the full benefit of their solar investment. EPE meters the amount of energy exported by rooftop solar customers to the grid, as well as energy supplied to them by EPE. If excess energy is generated by these customers during a billing month, EPE will continue to provide a generation credit for the net amount.
“This new customer class is being proposed to ensure that customers with substantially similar load profiles and usage characteristics are grouped together,” added Shockley. “There is a definite benefit and cost associated with customers who generate power at their home and by creating a new customer class they will receive the full value of their system and limit subsidies for all other customers. As our customers diversify, we must also make the appropriate changes now, so that we move toward fixing any imbalance of subsidies for all of our customers.”
Currently, a residential customer who generates power on-site is grouped within the residential customer class. The existing residential rate does not reflect all of the costs and benefits associated with customers that generate power on-site. An analysis performed on all customer classes by EPE, showed that customers that generate their own power display a different usage profile than customers who do not generate power at home.
“The rate case process is one where all interests are represented for each class,” added Shockley. “The Public Utility Commission of Texas will hear all of the testimony from both sides and make a final decision on the proposed changes and rate allocations.”