Does the electric company penalize customers who put solar panels on their homes?

Solar Panels in El Paso.

Debbie, a KFOX14 viewer, wanted to know whether El Paso Electric penalized its customers who installed solar panels on their homes.

I took her question to electric company spokesman George De La Torre.

He responded in an email that there is no penalty for a private, rooftop solar power system.

However, under the rate case settlement approved by the City of El Paso and which is now before the Texas Public Utility Commission, the electric company would begin charging a minimum monthly charge of $30 to residential customers in Texas who have rooftop solar systems.

El Paso Electric said this monthly $30 fee is to "cover the cost of grid and customer-related services." The electric company also said it will only apply to customers who connect their solar panels to the utility's power grid after the rate case gets final approval from state regulators. So customers who already have rooftop solar power systems won’t have to pay this new charge.

El Paso Electric also offers something called “net metering” to both its Texas and New Mexico solar customers. By attaching a special meter to their rooftop solar panels, the electric company can determine when it's delivering electricity to the customer and when the customer is delivering power to the utility. Then at the end of each monthly billing cycle, the electric company will credit the customer for any electricity they send to the utility.

In the end, it’s up to customers to decide whether the utility's charging a new penalty, or whether this is the price solar customers should pay for getting to use the utility's power grid to buy and sell electricity.

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