CPS Energy's Save for Tomorrow Energy Plan to increase funding dedicated to help make energy efficiency programs more feasible for low-income residents.
CPS Energy's Save for Tomorrow Energy Plan will increase funding for energy efficiency programs that can help low-income customers reduce their bills. Credit: Bonnie Arbittier / San Antonio Report

Almost a third of the money from CPS Energy’s latest energy efficiency and conservation program will go to help low-income customers make their homes more energy-efficient and reduce energy costs.

CPS Energy officials told a subcommittee of the San Antonio City Council last week that the Save for Tomorrow Energy Plan, or STEP, will increase the amount of funding designated to programs benefitting low-income customers from 16% to 28%.

With a total budget of about $70 million annually for five years, paid for by a small charge on customers’ bills, that means a jump from just over $11 million a year to $19.6 million, officials told council members.

The entire council will vote on whether to approve the new program on June 16.

Energy efficiency programs that benefit low income customers include home and multi-family weatherization, targeted discounts, new solar options and additional programs the utility hopes to develop over time, said Rick Luna, CPS Energy’s director of technology and product innovation.

The new STEP program will also expand the eligibility for low income programs by adding “alternative qualification criteria,” Luna said.

The utility will take a data-centric approach to helping customers, Luna added, by identifying customers with the highest energy burden — that is, those who pay the highest share of their household income toward their energy bill. The utility also seeks to expand customer participation, he said.

Councilwoman Adriana Rocha Garcia (D4) said she would like to see data on current program users to better understand who is benefiting from the STEP program the most and who is subsidizing it.

The latest version of STEP aims to reduce demand by 410 megawatts over the next five years by reaching 16,000 homes and 20,000 multifamily units at a cost of roughly $350 million. That equates to about $3.50 on a customer’s average monthly bill — roughly what customers pay for the existing program, which winds down in July.

To expand the reach of its efficiency programs, CPS Energy will leverage external funding opportunities, such as the Property Assessed Clean Energy, or PACE, program, a financing tool that allows owners of commercial, industrial, nonprofit and large multifamily residential properties to access low-cost loans for energy efficiency and water conservation improvements to their properties.

Interim CEO and President Rudy Garza also assured City Council members that the utility would create a transitional period while it reduces residential solar rooftop rebates in favor of community solar projects.

“We understand this is a concern and can say that it won’t be sudden — we will have a bridge for this transition,” Garza said.

CPS Energy is a financial supporter of the San Antonio Report. For a full list of business members, click here. 

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Lindsey Carnett

Lindsey Carnett covers the environment, science and utilities for the San Antonio Report.