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San Antonio to consider returning $50 million to CPS Energy customers in bill credits

CPS-Energy-Building-Sign-PALACIOS-032821.jpg
Joey Palacios / Texas Public Radio
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The new CPS Energy headquarters near McCollough Ave and Broadway

High energy bills this summer have led to CPS Energy customer woes, but the City of San Antonio is proposing returning some of that revenue to consumers.

San Antonio owns CPS Energy and under that model, the city gets about one-third of its annual general fund revenue from the utility. Due to the higher than anticipated energy bills, the city is expected to receive more than $75 million extra revenue from CPS. The city, however, proposes using about $50 million of that extra revenue as a relief to customers.

San Antonio’s City Manager Erik Walsh said Wednesday he plans to issue that proposal to council members during a Thursday meeting about the upcoming 2023 operating budget.

“Folks have seen extraordinarily high utility bills, we have seen extraordinarily high revenue,” Walsh said.

This summer has been among the hottest on record for San Antonio — driving residents to up their air condition usage, which increased the costs to keep their homes and businesses cool.

In May, the city had projected that it would be $35 million ahead of its projected revenue due to the early heat forecasts, but with dozens of 100 degree days thus far — and more expected in August and September — the city readjusted that estimate to $75 million before the end of the fiscal year on Sept. 30.

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The $50 million proposed credits would be applied to all CPS Energy residential and commercial customers that live both inside and outside of the City of San Antonio.

“This is not going to wipe away anybody’s outstanding balances, it’s not going to pay anybody’s complete utility bill,” Walsh said. “It is the city as the owner of CPS recognizing the extraordinary position that everybody finds themselves in and doing our part.”

The decision is ultimately up to the San Antonio City Council which could vote on this proposal before Sept. 1.

About $45 million would be returned at a rate based on an individual customer's July 2022 bill. The proposed formula in calculating the credit would be equal to 13.3% on July’s energy usage for each customer.

For the average residential customer, the credit would amount to about $31. That amount would be deduced from a future bill, likely in October.

The remaining $5 million would be added to CPS Energy’s Residential Energy Assistance Program for low-income customers also known as REAP.

The proposal is not the only one being floated to use the additional revenue. District 1 Councilman Mario Bravo, in a memo to the rest of his city council colleagues, recommended that the money be used in resilience efforts.

“We should responsibly invest this revenue in ways that prepare our community for extreme weather and protect residents from future high energy bills,” he said. “We must also take this opportunity to address energy poverty by helping our most vulnerable residents achieve utility bill relief for years to come and protect them during severe weather events.”

Bravo recommended using the same pot of money to invest $10 million in converting local buildings into community resiliency centers; $20 million in residential weatherization and energy efficiency; and another $20 million in tree planting and other urban heat island reduction efforts.

Bravo said he plans to introduce his proposal also during the council meeting.

Note: This story will be updated Thursday afternoon after the presentation to the city council.

TPR was founded by and is supported by our community. If you value our commitment to the highest standards of responsible journalism and are able to do so, please consider making your gift of support today.

Joey Palacios can be reached atJoey@TPR.org and on Twitter at @Joeycules