EL PASO, TX (KTSM) – For those residents who’ve wanted to take advantage of the term “sun city” in El Paso and go solar, there are some things they need to know first according to El Paso Electric.

EPE officials share that if a consumer chooses to purchase solar panels for their home, know that there will be a 30-dollar minimum El Paso Electric charge attached to their bill.

Cynthia Pina Ortwein from EP Electric says the charge is collect the cost associated with providing service to the customer, as you are still connected to ep electrics distribution grid – allowing for reliable electricity, on those less than sunny days.

Additionally, EP Electric wants to make sure you do not fall for a scam.

“Anybody who’s interested in getting rooftop solar if a contractor tells you, you will never have a bill then that’s a cause for concern we want to make sure that our customers are aware of potential scams or people with aggressive selling tactics.”

Some might see the minimum bill as a sort of punishment for those who choose to go solar but Ortwein explains that it is so that every customer is treated the same.

“So, we want to make sure were treating all of our customers equally and that our customers who don’t have rooftop solar aren’t subsidizing the cost for our rooftop solar customers who are still connected to our distribution grid.”

The minimum bill also guarantees that those who do not have solar aren’t paying extra for the fixed cost however, if you do have rooftop solar, you are able to still receive the same customer service from ep electric and will not being treated any differently.

“…We want to make sure that the fixed cost that they’re paying for with the minimum bill they can call our customer service and our customer service will take care of our rooftop solar customers exactly with the same care and urgency as our non-top solar customers.”

Just last week, the city announced a new solar partnership to help El Pasoans go solar.

Solar United Neighbors (SUN) is the name of the El Paso Solar co-op to help El Pasoans go solar and install battery storage systems.

“Helping El Pasoans access rooftop solar will benefit our economy, build local resiliency, and ensure El Paso is investing in the grid of the future,” said Nicole Ferrini, the City’s Chief Resilience Officer. “This co-op also helps further the City’s Strategic Plan that includes the City’s Regional Renewable Energy Advisory Council mission to include increasing access to affordable renewable energy and reinforce grid reliability while driving renewable industry development.”

Officials say the free solar co-op will allow homeowners and business owners in El Paso to collectively learn about solar energy and leverage their combined buying power to save money. Co-ops solicit competitive bids from installers, so the co-op can obtain a competitive price and top quality.

The partnership with SUN provides the first opportunity for El Pasoans to join a solar co-op.

“More and more Texans are looking to solar and battery storage for self-sufficiency, which has the added benefit of making our grid more resilient,” said Hanna Mitchell, Texas program director for Solar United Neighbors. “Together, we’re building a movement to create a more sustainable electricity system that directly benefits households and small businesses in the community, while reducing strain on the grid.”

After last year’s Winter Storm Uri and with the war in Ukraine causing oil prices to skyrocket, it has become even more urgent for communities like El Paso to reduce their reliance on fossil fuels.

“A solar co-op is a widely accessible way for our community to experience the benefits of rooftop solar and clean, local, energy, allowing the community to become more energy independent,” said Angel Ulloa, member of Sunrise El Paso’s leadership committee. “It’s also important for reducing carbon pollution that threatens the health and livelihoods of El Pasoans.”

After a competitive bidding process facilitated by SUN, which remains vendor neutral, co-op members will select a single solar company to complete the installations. Joining the co-op does not obligate members to purchase solar. Instead, members will have the option to individually purchase panels, batteries, and electric vehicle chargers based on the installer’s group rate.

Partnering on the co-op are Eco El Paso and Sunrise El Paso as well as Rocky Mountain Institute. The solar co-op is made possible by funding from the Leon Lowenstein Foundation.

“Joining the solar co-op is a great way to make going solar more affordable and will allow El Pasoans to take control of their energy bills in the long term,” said Joshua Simmons, Eco El Paso Board Member.

SUN will host several free information sessions to educate interested community members about solar energy and the co-op. Individuals interested in going solar can sign up for the co-op or one of the upcoming information sessions at the co-op web page.

For more info on the solar program, click here.

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