Tuesday, April 12, 2011

'Stealing horses' at City Council

City Council was fun today! Unless you were El Paso Electric, that is. It was crammed with p.o.ed solar customers who installed panels thinking they could exchange the extra electricity they produce when the sun is shining for conventional electricity at night (a standard practice known as "net metering"), meaning they wouldn't have to pay for electricity ever again (basically). This went on like this until last month, when EPE sent them exorbitant bills asking for back pay.

People were saying things like this to City Council:

"You guys are the sheriff. You need to do something because people are stealing our horses!"

(That was Harry Schulte, president of the El Paso Solar Energy Association, who has a way with words.)

And it is an outrage really that EPE tried to sneak this thing through after pretending they were on board with the City's plan to encourage the solar industry in El Paso. Like City Rep. Susie Byrd said today,

"Our goal is to get back to where we were last year when we made decisions about solar and co-invested in the future of our community."
Or what Mayor John Cook said:

"It's a restarting point right now."

Well, heck, how many restarting points are we going to need?

So what was decided? 

Since El Paso Electric says that the problem are Texas energy rules, EPE and Norman Gordon, the City's contract attorney, drafted the following legislation to take to Austin at a date not specified:
  • There would be monthly net-metering in El Paso (meaning that solar homeowners could only build up credit during one month before it is reset)
  • EPE owns the RECs forever
  • EPE continues to buy extra solar energy (after metering) at avoided costs
Not the best deal (we really should have net metering on an ongoing basis instead of monthly; RECs should go back to owners after 10 or 15 years or EPE should pay better rates than avoided costs for solar power), but it's something. 

Best case scenario, a bill passes in September. To make thinks a little easier for solar homeowners in the meantime, EPE is:

  1. Forgiving the back-pay bills sent in March
  2. Back paying solar homeowners who benefited from the solar rebates and extra $.50 to $1 per watt.
If Austin fails, the City will look at whether they can pass local legislation.


  1. Great summary of today's meeting, the current state of affairs, and the hope for the near future.