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'I felt insulted': Committee of citizens discusses CPS Energy rate increase

A group of citizens responsible for oversight at CPS Energy is looking to see if it will give the utility rate increase approval.

SAN ANTONIO, Texas — The Rate Advisory Committee (RAC) met Thursday to discuss the rate hike. It is a group of 21 citizens from around the city who will decide to recommend, or not, the new charges to city council. 

The committee’s decision is not binding, but city council members do take it into consideration when voting on the rate increase. The city council must vote for the rate increase for it to go into effect. 

The committee’s agenda said it would vote at the end of the meeting Thursday, but the RAC decided to delay its vote on the rate hike. Yet, some members of the committee were concern the utility went to city council with the information on the rate increase before discussing it with them.

“As for me, it was kind of a surprise to read it in the paper that you already talked to the city council about the rate increase and we hadn’t even talked about it or taken a vote on it,” said Dana McGinnis, a RAC committee member. 

“Not that we have any authority on that. In the interest of getting along with everybody, it seems like it would be a better procedure to ask us. After all, this committee represents as many people as the city council does. We’re all appointed by elected officials, or something like that. Maybe we could establish, I felt maybe jilted is the right word, twice now, because CPS management has gone to city council after telling us we’re going to discuss a certain issue. Frankly, I think it would have helped CPS to run this stuff by us first, listen to our questions and if we said go to city council, ask them, it might have helped your presentation. I didn’t listen to the video, but in the paper it sounded like there was a reasonable amount of hostility from council members. Could be wrong. It’s not really a criticism, but can we agree on some kind of protocol so this kind of thing doesn’t happen? I felt insulted,” McGinnis said.

CPS Energy said it is just now starting conversations with all stakeholders including the RAC, city council and the community since the utility recently finalized the rate hike number.

“That’s really fair, we’ve been trying to balance who we talk to about which topics through time because there is a sequence that has to happen,” said a CPS Energy executive. 

“Our board has to know within a certain amount of time before other folks know. What I can tell you is we were very clear with the council yesterday we still have three upcoming conversations with the RAC. We sent them the data. We sent them full packet of information but they have not voted yet. We have not talked through all the details of the rate increase and by the time we come back to you (city council) and ask you to vote in January the RAC will be able to weigh in and you will have their feedback on the proposal. So that is our fault for not making that clearer to you guys. We’ve spent a ton of time with you all and we value your opinions. You all have, you may not realize it, but you helped shape what we came up with. I’m sorry we haven’t clearly about that to this group, but it is absolutely our intention we get your feedback and then we go to council when we ask for their vote. We have not done that yet,” said a CPS Energy executive. 

CPS Energy is asking for a 3.85 percent base rate increase plus a .8 percent fuel increase to pay for the February winter storm fuel charges. It will cost the average customer about $5.10 more a month or $61 a year total. This increase is significantly less than the 10 percent hike first proposed.

The rate increase will start March 1, 2022 if approved by city council and the CPS Energy Board.

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