CPS customers will get a rebate on their energy bills after all – San Antonio Express-News

SAN ANTONIO — San Antonio households will receive a credit on their CPS Energy bills after all.

After weeks of wrangling, City Council on Thursday voted to give $50 million back to the city-owned utility’s customers through the credit and a low-income bill assistance program. The plan’s approval capped a month of debate that began when City Manager Erik Walsh proposed a rebate as the best use of a $75 million windfall the city has received from this summer’s record-high utility bills.

District 7 Councilmember Ana Sandoval was the deciding vote, effectively choosing to approve the rebate when she abstained from voting after her colleagues had split 5-5. Sandoval, a self-styled climate advocate, has questioned the rebate but, unlike her colleagues, never took a stand on the question of whether it made more sense to give the money back to customers or for City Hall to spend it.

On ExpressNews.com: CPS Energy bills jump 43% in July to a record $254, but unpaid bills creating headaches for utility

The remaining $25 million of the surplus will be spent on other city projects.

“Around 70 to 75 percent of the comments that I’ve gotten back through various means is ‘We want our money back,’” said District 10 Councilman Clayton Perry, the lone council member to support rebating the entire $75 million. “How many times do we have to hear that?”

Rather than a rebate, however, several on council had called to use the money to weatherize low-income ratepayers’ houses and plant trees, with the idea to lower energy bills of vulnerable households in the long run.

Mayor Ron Nirenberg speaks as City Council meets to discuss and vote on the city's new annual budget, totaling $3.4 billion, on Thursday, Sept. 15, 2022. The main highlights included city property tax relief; large wage increases for city employees to stem the tide of people leaving and fill vacancies; police resources; and what to do with an extra $50 to $75 million in revenue the city takes from CPS Energy.

Mayor Ron Nirenberg speaks as City Council meets to discuss and vote on the city’s new annual budget, totaling $3.4 billion, on Thursday, Sept. 15, 2022. The main highlights included city property tax relief; large wage increases for city employees to stem the tide of people leaving and fill vacancies; police resources; and what to do with an extra $50 to $75 million in revenue the city takes from CPS Energy.

Kin Man Hui, San Antonio Express-News / Staff photographer

“You’ve got people up here who really are concerned about improving the quality of life for the people in our community,” District 9 Councilmember John Courage said. “We don’t think giving people $20, $30, $50 or even $100 off of a bill is going to do as much to improve their quality of life as we can collectively … determining how this $50 million can be multiplied.”

The size of the rebate will be based on how much electricity a customer consumed in July, when the average San Antonio household was charged a record $254 for electric and gas service — $76 more than a year ago.

CPS Energy will likely credit customers’ on their November bill.

The city opted to rebate $42.5 million of a $75 million budget surplus the city collected from CPS Energy, which has seen revenues jump this year as residents have faced record energy bills. Since the city takes 13 percent of the utility’s top-line revenue, the elevated bills resulted in a windfall for the city.

The city is contributing $7.5 million of the surplus into CPS Energy’s Residential Energy Assistance fund that helps low-income ratepayers pay their bills. The other $25 million will go into city projects such as aquifer protection and sidewalks.

Bravo’s proposal called for “smart, strategic investments” that would have paid “dividends to the community,” read a letter sent before the meeting that was signed by 17 environmental groups and local officials such as State Sen. Roland Gutierrez.

Mayon Ron Nirenberg and others have argued citizens need some relief after paying record-high utility bills this summer. The average San Antonio household was billed $765 for electric and gas service in the four months spanning April through July, a 36 percent increase from the same time period a year earlier, according to figures from CPS Energy.

On ExpressNews.com: City Council remains sharply divided over proposed rebate for CPS Energy customers

“Do the right thing and give the people their CPS money,” resident Betty Eckert said. “It’s needed by the people.”

This is a breaking news story. Please check back for updates.

diego.mendoza-moyers@express-news.net

Original News Source