San Antonio considers one-time credit for rate-weary CPS customers

With coffers overflowing with millions of dollars from CPS Energy customers whose bills jumped 50% this summer, the city of San Antonio wants to provide some relief by giving households credit of about $30 – on average – on their October bills.

City Manager Erik Walsh is expected to make the proposal to City Council at a meeting this morning.

Since the city receives 13% of every dollar the city-owned CPS brings in, its contribution this fiscal year is expected to be $75 million more than officials expected. Under the proposal, the city would return $45 million to taxpayers, or about $31 per household on average. He plans to use the remaining $30 million on other projects.

“It doesn’t clear anyone’s bills. But it’s acknowledging that we have to do our part as owners and acknowledge the extraordinary situation,” Walsh said in an interview Wednesday.

Industrial and commercial customers of CPS would also receive the credit.

Utility bills have soared this summer as record heat pushes customers to use more electricity for air conditioning. It comes as the price of natural gas that CPS buys to power its power plants has nearly doubled in the past year – costs that are passed on to customers.

‘Doesn’t sit well’

As a result, the city has been stuck for months in an awkward position teeming with cash as San Antonio households pay record bills amid the worst inflation in 40 years. Walsh said that would have put the city in an untenable position as it finalizes its annual budget this fall.

“We can return money to taxpayers who paid more than expected and we collected more than expected, or we can keep that money and do various things,” Walsh said. “But as we go through the summer as people write August and September checks (to pay utility bills) and I’m talking about all the money we have in the city…it doesn’t doesn’t suit me.”

The city’s finance department started the year expecting to raise $361 million from the CPS in the 12 months ending September 30, but is now expected to bring in more than $436 million.

The bill credit will be based on the amount of electricity used by a customer in July. Walsh said average bills for CPS residential customers jumped to $230 in July from $225 in June. So an average credit of $31 is worth about 13% of a customer’s July bill.

The city will use the remaining surplus to donate $10 million to the Edwards Aquifer Authority and $9 million to stockpile emergency water and supplies, Walsh said. An additional $6 million will pay for sidewalk repairs and $5 million will go to CPS Energy’s Home Energy Assistance Partnership Fund, which helps low-income customers pay their bills.

Not everyone wants the city to give customers credit.

Counselor disagrees

Rather than a rebate, District 1 Councilman Mario Bravo said the city should use the $50 million for projects that could reduce longer-term household energy bills.

Bravo will present its own proposal at today’s council meeting, recommending that the city spend $20 million on weatherization and energy-efficiency upgrades to older homes and air currents. that use more electricity per square foot than newer homes.

He also wants the city to spend $20 million to combat the so-called urban heat island effect in which the removal of trees and an impermeable cover like concrete make downtown hotter than rural areas. peripheral devices. Bravo called for a campaign to plant trees and otherwise reduce the loss of tree cover in the city, among other initiatives.

According to his plan, the remaining $10 million would go towards creating “resilience centers” for residents seeking cooling or heating, with on-site batteries to store electricity in case of an emergency.

Bravo said the record-breaking heat this summer “is the only reason we have this extra revenue” and the spending plan should recognize that.

“We know we’re going to have more (intense summers), so why not take that resulting money and invest it in a way that protects taxpayers and CPS residents in the future?” he said. “This puts us in a better position to reduce energy cost burdens and maintain a quality of life.”

CPS Energy did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

[email protected]