San Antonio Solar: Municipal Advantages for Residents
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San Antonio has been blessed by having a forward-thinking, municipally owned energy utility, CPS Energy and a citizenry with open minds that are supportive and understanding of the need for renewable energy. Now, San Antonio is the only Texas city rated as a top ten for solar capacity in the USA. Surprisingly, Austin is only rated at #17.
But it doesn’t matter your political affiliation — individuals and corporations alike are in a majority agreement, solar energy needs to happen, as evidenced by San Antonio’s 9-1 vote to support the Paris Accord last year. And it already is — with a solar energy capacity of 161 MW, more than Dallas (16.4 MW) and Houston (9.5 MW) combined, San Antonio is reaching for the stars much faster than most cities. This is largely thanks to CPS Energy, who just last year celebrated their 75 year anniversary of being municipally owned by the City of San Antonio, who purchased the former SAPSCo for $34M in 1942.
Growing San Antonio’s Solar Capacity
There is much room for growth too, with only 1.4 percent of San Antonio rooftops currently equipped with solar, according to the U.S. Department of Energy, there’s room for about another 434,000 solar equipped rooftops, which could generate 8,100 MW of energy. San Antonio residents that have made the switch to solar are paying retail rates for their electricity, and some are being paid in retail rates to cancel out their energy bills in some cases.
The municipal aim is to grow both commercial and residential rooftop capacity for solar energy within the city limits. With San Antonio being the seventh most populated city in the United States, this is no small feat. It is being executed with great education and great rebates to participating residents who help the city to grow its solar capacity.
As Texas’ oldest municipality, San Antonio continues its progress with municipally owned utility company CPS energy, which is proving to create long-term success in energy efficiency, consumption and implementation. Environment Texas’ executive director Luke Metzger has been noted as saying that municipal utilities in the state tend to outshine for-profit utilities when it comes to solar energy growth and incentives.
What Does This Mean for Residents Interested in Buying Solar Panels?
It means that other cities struggle to implement plans for the minimum metric of renewables, because the utility companies are privately held and their interests are geared toward profits. A municipally operated utility company can take into account the best interests of the city and long-term viability for residents and business owners. This is a critical issue when it comes to deciding to go solar for your own home, as well as the development of renewables going into the future.
If you look at capacity, you can see a trend and you can see why San Antonio is climbing the capacity ranks at a faster rate than any other city. Because of CPS Energy rebates and federal tax credits, residents will have the opportunity to generate their own energy and contribute to the solar MW growth goals.
What Are the Solar-Advantages of Having a Municipally Owned Energy Utility?
Years ago, the average homeowner hadn’t considered their energy options outside of their utility provider. Now, homeowners are not only considering their options beyond a one-way payment system for non-renewable energy, they are being asked to participate in the capacity building and generation of energy.
CPS Energy customers are being asked to produce for the grid while benefiting in major ways to do so, by way of local rebates, state incentives and federal tax credits.
Many states with these same alternatives and incentives are not seeing the same returns as San Antonio residents. The advantage for San Antonio is having a municipally owned utility vs. an investor-owned utility or IOU.
These are the Key Benefits for San Antonio residents municipally owned CPS Energy:
- Lower rates than IOU’s (investor owned-utility)
- Power Purchase Agreements
- Bigger solar rebates
- Programs and governed at the local level
- Less regulatory red tape for new incentive programs for customers/residents
- Better responsiveness
- Local economic development
- Community shared solar
The 5 Biggest Financial Incentives for San Antonio Residents To Go Solar
The CPS Energy Rebates for San Antonio Residents
While pricing for a project will vary from installer to installer, the rebates you can count on include municipal rebates as well as a federal tax credit. In April 2018 CPS Energy added another $15 million in solar panel installation rebates, $9 million of which is allocated for residential systems, covering up to $0.70 per AC Watt.
For residential solar installations, total rebates are capped at 50 percent of the total project and $25K max.
The Federal Tax Credit — 30 Percent Until 2019
A tax credit is different from a rebate in that you don’t get cash back on your solar purchase. Instead, you get to take 30 percent of your total project cost off your owed federal income tax at the end of the year. This means if you pay federal taxes and tend to have a sizable federal tax at the end of the year, you can apply that 30 percent solar incentive credit toward your owned amount.
Keep in mind, if you don’t typically pay a large amount of taxes to warrant a considerable credit, a credit is less advantageous to you, and you can still apply what you have to any owed amount, but if you have a small amount left over, that will not be returned to you in a tax refund. The credit works one way, to apply to your federal tax bill if you have one.
Tax credits will be declining. Now is the time to take advantage of the current federal tax credit of 30 percent as they will be reduced in the coming years accordingly:
- 2019 – 30 percent
- 2020 – 26 percent
- 2021 – 22 percent
- Followed by 0 percent for residents (unless a new federal investment credit is created)
In order to qualify for the federal credit, you will have to purchase your solar panels, as leased installations do not qualify for the credit.
State Solar Incentive
While the state of Texas doesn’t offer rebates or credits, it does allow homeowners to exclude the value added to their home by the solar panels from their tax assessment. So you won’t have to worry that your property taxes will increase as a result of the increase in value.
Net Metering for San Antonio Residents, It’s Required Within City Limits
Net metering offers another opportunity to make money back from a residential solar investment. CPS Energy offers net metering to its customers and is required to by law. This allows residents to store energy that is produced by their solar panels back onto the grid. The equation works like this: for every kilowatt-hour of power you produce, a kilowatt-hour of power consumed is canceled from your bill. CPS Energy gives the following example on an energy bill:
Lower Electric Bill With Solar Versus Without Solar
As you can see, an electric bill without solar panels producing net-metered energy is a one-way bill, funneled out of your pocket — as opposed to an electric bill of someone who has invested in solar panels. Not only are the residents who invest in solar improving the value of their home, they’re ensuring lower energy cost in the immediate future and exponentially in the long-term.
The price trajectory of non-renewable resources is upward, as we’ve seen 2.2 percent national average increase every year in the last 10 years. Consumers can expect these prices to continue to rise and be reflected in their energy bills. When not offset or replaced with solar energy, these electricity bills will begin to crush. This is one of the first steps necessary in understanding just how powerfully solar panels can work for San Antonio residents.
How To Take Advantage of the Solar Opportunities for Residents in San Antonio
- Qualify for CPS Energy Rebate
- Get a free custom quote for your solar installation
- Plan your purchase before federal tax credit decreases
- Execute during the solar growth phase to capitalize on the most incentives
- See how much you can save with solar panels
How To Qualify for the CPS Energy Rebate
- Have a CPS Energy electric utility account attached to the property address that will have the solar panel system installed.
- Make sure that the solar array will be installed on a non-mobile, permanent structure
- Make sure the rebate applicant owns the solar array.
- If you are not the owner of the property, you must show documented approval from the owner before you can be eligible as a rebate applicant.
- The solar panel system must be greater than 1 kW ac.
CPS Energy Plans To Increase Solar Capacity Within San Antonio City Limits
Rather than increase the current amount of non-localized solar farms, it’s the mission of the city of San Antonio and CPS Energy to adopt a fill-the-rooftops approach for harnessing solar power within the city. That’s why incentives and campaigns have been adopted to encourage both residents and commercial property owners to seek their best options for solar energy and take advantage of the cities go solar growth now.