CPS Energy and local solar installers have struck a compromise, at least for now. According to Solar San Antonio director Lanny Sinkin, during a Wednesday morning meeting with Doyle Beneby, the CPS Energy president and CEO agreed to delay for a year a proposed program that solar advocates claim could kill the local market for rooftop solar, and the industry it employs.
“Given that the offer basically embraced the recommendation made by the Solar San Antonio Board of Directors, I agreed that the offer represented a solution to the controversy, at least in the near term,” Sinkin told the Current in an email.
That controversy stems from CPS’ abrupt announcement last month that it planned to kill net-metering for solar adopters, in which every kilowatt-hour rooftop solar produces cancels a kilowatt-hour solar customers consume from CPS. The public utility planned to replace net-metering with its new “SunCredit” rate, which at 5.6 cents per kilowatt hour amounts to little more than half of what solar customers currently get.
CPS has argued that as solar customers pay less to the utility, lower income ratepayers that can’t afford solar bear the burden and that the cost to maintain “fixed assets,” like power plants, power lines, and transformers, get dumped on a shrinking pool of non-solar adopters.
Naturally, the local solar industry freaked. Slashing the reimbursement rate, Sinkin and other advocates claimed, would lengthen the pay-off time for rooftop system, cratering the growing local industry by making rooftop solar impossible to sell. Plus, they said, CPS failed to consider all the benefits of solar in its “SunCredit” calculation.
CPS’ initial announcement came April 9, saying any contracts signed after April 27 would be under the new “SunCredit” scheme. Existing CPS contracts would be grandfathered under net-metering for a decade. CPS eventually backtracked, agreeing to grandfather existing customers for the life of their systems and kicking back its deadline to May 31.
Solar adopters, installers and supporters showed up en masse at City Hall last week during Council’s Citizens to be Heard session. Many attended a raucous public meeting CPS hosted last Friday. Now, all parties have got a year to hash things out, CPS says.
A blog posted to the CPS website Thursday says the utility will form a working group in the coming weeks including 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.”