Next week, CPS Energy will ask the San Antonio City Council to approve a rate hike of 3.8%. While this is lower than the original estimated rate hike proposal of 8%, council still needs to pause and question CPS Energy’s financial decision-making before approving any cost increase for customers.
After Winter Storm Uri, CPS Energy faced $1 billion in fuel charges owed to various natural gas suppliers. Despite filing lawsuits against these natural gas companies for what they claim are unfair charges, CPS is still passing these costs on to ratepayers. The utility has paid $413 million to natural gas suppliers so far, and will add $1.50 to customer bills for the next 25 years to pay for that. CPS Energy is still in a legal battle for the remaining $587 million that natural gas companies contend that the utility owes. If CPS Energy ends up paying that, too, it will add even more to our bills in the future. City council needs to ensure that CPS Energy is prepared to keep customers safe and warm in the event of another extreme weather event, and to protect customers from getting slammed with another billion dollar bill.
City council also needs to ensure that CPS Energy reigns in reckless spending before they approve a rate hike. KSAT News recently reported that the former number two person at the utility, Fred Bonewell, had been using the company credit card to buy expensive steak dinners, chauffeured rides, daily lunches everyday and even expensive Beats headphones. Former President and CEO, Paula Gold-Williams also used limousine services and purchased flowers and gift baskets all at the expense of rate payers. These frivolous expenses were an egregious abuse of raterpayers’ trust.
Not too long after the start of the pandemic, CPS Energy suspended power disconnections for nonpayment. In October they resumed the disconnections. Even before the pandemic some customers struggled to pay their utility bills.
When CPS Energy comes to council for a rate approval they need to ensure that low income customers are shielded from disconnections and rate hikes that will put even more financial strain on families that struggle to keep their lights on, stay warm during the winter and cool during the summer. Before any rate hike is imposed, CPS Energy should change the rate structure because the current structure doesn’t encourage conservation and rewards heavier users with lower rates.
The utility isn’t considering the costs it will incur to transform our power supply even though the Spruce Coal Plant failed to provide power during Winter Storm Uri. the San Antonio City council should demand that CPS Energy address the climate crisis and explore renewable energy sources.
City council is the last line of defense for ratepayers. CPS Energy board of trustees are the utility’s decision makers.They are expected to review CPS Energy’s financials every month, yet they have failed to protect customers from outrageous spending by executives. City council needs to step up and ensure that CPS is being fiscally responsible before any rate hikes are approved.