What’s at Stake
Utilities around the country have tried to restrict the growth of rooftop solar by implementing unreasonable and discriminatory fees, surcharges and other rate changes.
In these cases, utilities sought unsupported rate hikes that would have threatened the sustainable growth of distributed solar and other clean energy resources in Southeastern New Mexico.
Utilities around the country have tried to restrict the growth of rooftop solar by implementing unreasonable and discriminatory fees, surcharges and other rate changes. Recent decisions by the New Mexico Public Regulation Commission will allow rooftop solar to continue to play a critical role in curbing fossil-fuel addiction and building a clean energy economy.
Earthjustice, Vote Solar, and other advocates successfully intervened in proceedings, defeating one utility proposal in the Commission’s legal proceedings and achieving a favorable settlement in another case.
- In 2015, the El Paso Electric Company was stopped from becoming the first regulated utility in the nation to establish a separate rate class for rooftop solar customers. The New Mexico Public Regulation Commission dismissed an EPE proposal that would have created a different rate class for residential customers with rooftop solar and other types of distributed generation, and then charge them a higher rate than other residential customers. The proposal would have threatened the sustainable growth of distributed solar and other clean energy resources in New Mexico. The commission threw out the proposal because these actions would violate its own rules designed to ensure that rooftop solar customers are treated fairly.
- In 2016, the New Mexico utility Southwestern Public Service Company sought a large and unsupported rate hike that would have threatened the sustainable growth of distributed solar and other clean energy resources in Southeastern New Mexico. But, customers of the utility now no longer have to worry about having to pay higher fees for producing their own solar energy. Most solar customers will even see reductions in their total surcharge fees. Earthjustice and Vote Solar, in partnership with New Mexico attorney Jason Marks, fought SPS’s proposal to increase a special charge on customers who produce renewable energy at their own homes, schools, farms and other locations.
Under a settlement agreement approved by the New Mexico Public Regulation Commission, SPS’s solar surcharge (technically known as "Rate No. 59, Distributed Generation Standby Service Rider") will not increase and will drop for many. SPS first imposed this special charge in 2011. In October 2015, SPS proposed increasing the current charge by 31 percent for residential customers, and up to 48 percent for other groups of customers.
The settlement maintains the current rate charged for producing renewable energy on a home, small business, municipal building or school. For agricultural irrigation customers with renewable energy systems, the surcharge will drop by 20 percent. In addition, the surcharge will no longer apply to a customer’s "excess" energy, which is a customer’s energy production that exceeds the customer’s energy consumption that month. Previously, SPS imposed a charge on every kilowatt hour of renewable energy that customers produced. The result is that charges on clean, local energy will either stay the same or go down, assuming a customer’s behavior does not change.
The vast majority of electricity generated in New Mexico comes from burning fossil fuels, causing significant harm to human health and the environment. Solar energy, including rooftop solar, plays a critical role in curbing fossil-fuel addiction and building a clean energy economy.