CPS Energy asking for rate increase

4.75 percent increase would be first since 2010

SAN ANTONIO - A year after pulling back a request to increase rates, CPS Energy's board plans to move ahead with a rate increase request of 4.75 percent for both electricity and gas.

The board publicly discussed the number for the first time during Wednesday afternoon's board meeting.

"We are hopeful that the community will support us," said CPS Energy CEO Doyle Beneby. "We don't like to have rate increases. We understand these are real people who will have to pay for a product they can't do without and we're very sensitive to that."

"Rate increases are never welcome -- nobody likes them -- but they are necessary," added Mayor Julian Castro, who has a seat on the board. "CPS Energy is probably the only big city utility that I can think of that has not had a rate increase in the last three years."

According to their presentation, customers using 1,500 kilowatt hours of electricity a month would see their bill increase from $136.79 to $142.03, still lower than every other large city in Texas.

"My husband and I are on a fixed income," said resident Patricia Daniels, who opposed the increase. "We don't need to be paying extra. We're trying to balance out our budget and the increase is not good for us."

"Five bucks, you know if you smoke, you can do that in a couple of cigarettes for God's sake," said Rudy Davila, who supports the request.

The rate increase would bring in an estimated $65 million in additional revenue every year, the bulk of which would go towards infrastructure and repair costs.

"The San Antonio area is one of the fastest growing areas in all of the United States," said Castro. "The demand on the utility is increasing and we have to keep up with that."

"Some of these things cause safety concerns for our employees and safety concerns for the public so these generally are things that are non-discretionary that have to do in order to maintain the system being safe and reliable for our customers," added Beneby.

The increase is a bit lower than the projected increase of 5.25 percent from the utility company's 2010 rate plan proposal.

Wednesday's presentation suggested increases of 5.25 percent in 2016 and 4.5 percent in 2018 but both of those would have to go before the city council for approval. The council could vote on the current request by Oct. 31.

If passed, the new rates would take effect Feb. 1, 2014.

You can view the CPS Energy presentation here (PDF).

For a list of recent stories Charles Gonzalez has done, click here.


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