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For San Antonians with high CPS Energy bills, old appliances or poor insulation could be to blame. 

In its efforts to make San Antonio more energy efficient, CPS Energy offers more than 20 rebate programs to encourage residents to invest in home improvements that also can save customers money. 

“A lot of people leave money on the table,” CPS spokeswoman Christine Patmon said.

CPS Energy gave back $45.5 million in rebates to customers last year under STEP — the Save for Tomorrow Energy Plan, said Ricardo Luna, CPS Energy’s director of technology and product innovation. The program concluded in December, but the City Council extended the rebate program, which is now called STEP Bridge.

The average customer who participates in a rebate program can save about $400 a year, which can go a long way for some San Antonio families, Luna said. Rebates can range from a few dollars to $3,000, depending on the customer’s needs and the associated rebate, he said. 

On average, CPS Energy doles out about 56,000 rebates a year, Luna said. Upgrading a home’s technology and appliances can help San Antonio prepare for the state’s ongoing population growth and energy demands by decreasing the amount of energy each home uses, he said. 

In 2009, CPS Energy launched the STEP program with the goal lowering local demand by 771 megawatts by 2020 — the amount of energy required to avoid building another fossil fuel plant in the 2010s.

One megawatt is enough electricity to power roughly 200 Texas homes on a summer day.

A CPS Energy lineman conducts maintenance. Credit: CPS Energy

STEP exceeded its original megawatt reduction goal; demand was reduced by more than 800 megawatts, according to CPS Energy

In January 2020, CPS Energy extended the program, renaming it STEP Bridge and adding an additional year and 75-megawatt savings goal. This past January, STEP Bridge was extended until July 2022 to give the program time to overcome COVID-19 related impacts and give the city time to gather input for the next phase of the program.

How the rebates work

CPS Energy’s residential program offers rebates for central air conditioner units, window air conditioner units, attic insulation, heat pumps, pool pumps, and other appliances. See the full list of rebate programs and eligible items here.

Air conditioning rebates both for homes and businesses tend to be CPS Energy’s most used, Luna said. These rebates can help with a partial or full AC unit replacement.

CPS Energy customers can also get rebates for installing solar panels on their home or business, Luna said. Over the past several months, CPS Energy has seen a lot more requests for solar panel rebates, Luna said. 

Solar rebates are capped at 50% of the project costs. Rebates for CPS Energy’s other programs are capped to not exceed the cost of the entire project.

The utility also offers customers incentives for getting a “smart,” or Wi-Fi-controlled, thermostat installed. This allows customers to connect to CPS Energy’s demand response program, another bill-reducing option. Under the program, CPS Energy will automatically set the customer’s thermostat a couple of degrees warmer as a result of demand response times to save energy. Customers with certain thermostats can opt out of individual demand response events.

“So we’ll give you a rebate to pay for a good chunk of that for the thermostat to go in … and then we’ll pay you every year for staying on the demand response program,” Luna said. 

A lesser-known rebate is the “do it yourself” one, known as the in-store rebates program, he said. This program is available upon checkout at participating stores for anyone buying energy-efficient products, Luna said. Those products include energy-efficient light bulbs. Customers building a new home can also look into specialty rebates for making their new house energy efficient, Luna said. 

After a customer purchases a product or service, they can apply for a rebate, which is returned to them within 10 to 12 weeks (depending on which rebate is used) as a check or bill credit.

Customers can apply for a home or business rebate from CPS Energy’s Save Now website. They must utilize one of the approved contractors, which the utility calls “trade allies,” to participate in the rebate programs. 

Customers should be aware that some contractors may receive the rebate directly from CPS Energy and charge the customer less for the overall project, while others work with the customer to decide where the rebate is sent. 

Customers seeking information about what rebates may apply to them can speak with a CPS Energy representative at 210-353-2728.

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

Lindsey Carnett

Lindsey Carnett is the general assignment reporter for the San Antonio Report.