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Proposed PUC Rules Protect Industry, Hurt Growth of Renewable Energy

March 25, 2008

Proposed PUC Rules Protect Industry, Hurt Growth of Renewable Energy

Public Interest Groups Urge Commissioners to Insert Key Consumer Protections at Wednesday Hearing

AUSTIN, Texas – A series of rules proposed by the state’s Public Utility Commission (PUC) would devastate the development of solar power in Texas and put severe limits on the growth of renewable energy, a coalition of consumer and environmental groups warned today.

The coalition, which includes Public Citizen, the Lone Star Chapter of the Sierra Club and Texas Impact, urged PUC commissioners to strengthen the proposals by considering the impact the rules would have on the solar industry in Texas. Under the PUC proposals, retail electric providers would not be required to buy excess power back from consumers; the rules also do not require the retailer to give the consumer any additional value for surplus solar power that is produced at peak usage times. Additionally, the rules will likely force customers who put solar panels on their homes or businesses to install expensive, redundant meters, said Cyrus Reed, conservation director at the Lone Star Chapter of the Sierra Club.

“These rules protect the utility companies by shifting all the cost of solar power to the customers, while giving consumers none of the benefits,” Reed said. “The PUC staff has completely ignored the Legislature’s intent of giving consumers a financial incentive to invest in clean, low-cost energy solutions.”

Tom “Smitty” Smith, director of Public Citizen’s Texas office, added, “We call on the commissioners to assure that those who invest in solar get paid back at a fair rate if they produce more than they use.”

The PUC rules will implement a massive energy efficiency reform bill sponsored by Rep. Joe Strauss (R- San Antonio). The bill, which passed unanimously in both houses of the Texas Legislature, reforms and expands the state’s high-performing energy efficiency programs and establishes a process by which owners of solar cells or other on-site renewable resources can sell excess electricity back to their retail electric provider.

“It just doesn’t make sense for the PUC to put forward rules that will reduce the public’s participation in clean energy solutions for Texas,” said Bee Moorhead, executive director of Texas Impact. “Our state leads the nation in global warming emissions, and more than half of Texans live in areas where it’s not safe to breathe the air.”

The state should be doing everything it can to encourage folks to be efficient and rely on green power, Smith said.

“Texas was recently dubbed the ‘CO2 State’ as the largest emitter of the greenhouse gas carbon dioxide in the nation,” Smith said. “At the same time, Texas has one of the highest potentials for renewable energy in the country. With carbon regulation looming on the horizon, Texas is ground zero for the need for change how it does business, and the PUC rules that are implemented this week can make the difference for the viability of the state’s energy future.”

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