Commentary: In December, the Public Utilities Commission of Texas (PUCT) approved a plan to let El Paso Electric impose a minimum bill of $30 on new solar customers – likely the highest such fee anywhere in the nation.
While the misguided move will deny some Texas homeowners the full benefits of solar, the impact will be limited because the fee only applies to a certain subset of solar customers:
New Mexico customers will not be affected.
Because this policy change resulted from a ruling of the Texas utility commission, only Texas customers will face the new bills. And, even Texas customers who already have solar installed or who have a solar application under review as of December 14 will be exempt from the minimum bill for 20 years. In short, only Texans installing new solar systems will face the fees.
New Mexico’s Public Regulation Commission rejected such a proposal for new fees in 2015. This was good news because these kinds of “minimum bill” fees are bad policy. Solar is a crucial bright spot in the economies of New Mexico, Texas, and the nation as a whole. New solar installations drive high-quality local job creation and build a more resilient and efficient power system—all while protecting the air and water. Public officials and utility companies should be doing all they can to expand usage of clean of and cost-effective technologies.
Regardless of the regulatory decisions of policymakers in the coming years, rapidly-declining prices for residential and commercial systems mean that solar is an incredible bargain. According to a recent study from North Carolina State University, homeowners who invest in a 5 kilowatt solar installation will, on average, earn a better return than they would get by investing in stocks. Panels pay for themselves by eliminating the need for rising and unpredictable utility bills.
The takeaway is simple: all NM solar customers are in the clear and it is an excellent time to go solar