CPS Energy is seeking applicants for a first-of-its-kind committee that will meet publicly and dive deep into how its rate structure works.

Members of the utility’s rate advisory committee will serve two-year terms, meet on an ongoing basis, and serve in a purely advisory role to the CPS Energy board. Their jobs are to study the utility’s rates, how those rates affect different classes of customers, and how CPS Energy’s rates compare to other utilities’ around the U.S.

Those who qualify for membership are CPS Energy customers who reside in the utility’s service area. They must be 18 or older, with an account that’s in good financial standing, i.e. not behind on payments enough to be delinquent.

CPS Energy officials want committee members to represent the following categories:

  • San Antonio city council districts within the CPS Energy service area
  • Areas outside the San Antonio city limits but within the CPS Energy service area
  • Each CPS Energy customer class, including residential, commercial, government, and industrial
  • Neighborhood associations
  • Multifamily residential customers
  • Major manufacturers, large businesses, small businesses, medical providers, and land developers
  • Professional planning, economic development, environmentalist, conservation, and community advocacy groups

The committee’s creation comes at a time of increasing transparency at the utility and greater scrutiny into its rate structure. CPS Energy has not had a rate increase since 2014, but officials have foreshadowed the need to ask City Council for a rate hike in response to tightening financial conditions.

Meanwhile, climate activists have been pressuring CPS Energy to accelerate its move away from fossil fuels, a debate that spawned the rate advisory committee in the first place. Some activists have chafed at the committee’s 21-member structure, which includes 11 representatives from the CPS Energy board and 10 members chosen by San Antonio City Council members.

Those interested in applying can apply for a board seat through CPS Energy or by speaking with their council member. Rudy Garza, CPS Energy’s chief customer engagement officer, said the utility would require the nominees it receives from City Council to fill out the same application form as those applying through CPS Energy.

CPS Energy officials are currently accepting applications via mail and email. Download the application form here.

Officials stressed their efforts to open the process to as many people as possible. At a Jan. 22 special meeting, Garza said the utility’s staff would “beat the bushes” for applicants via multiple channels, including digital and print advertisements, mailers, and virtual customer fairs.

“We are casting as wide a net as possible to meet the expectations of the community to form a diverse committee,” Garza told board members.

Applications are open through Feb. 26, Garza said. The goal is to confirm members by CPS Energy’s April 26 board meeting. The committee would begin meeting in May.

CPS Energy’s board will have the final say on the full slate of nominees. Board members are still working out some of the finer points, including the process of appointing a chair and vice-chair.

At the special meeting, the board discussed whether Mayor Ron Nirenberg would nominate two people from a slate of candidates for the two leadership positions, with the full board voting on whether or not to confirm. An alternate method would have the full board acting as a group to nominate and confirm the chair and vice-chair.

Trustee Janie Gonzalez, who’s leading the CPS Energy board’s work on the committee, said the board would likely address these details at a future special meeting.

“Obviously there’s going to be some massaging we need to do to ensure this is a fair and open process,” Gonzalez said.

Brendan Gibbons is a former senior reporter at the San Antonio Report. He is an environmental journalist for Oil & Gas Watch.