KPRC 2 Investigates: Houston homeowners waiting to have solar panels connected to grid

HOUSTON – Chris Bourque and his wife Zury wash dishes inside their home in Cypress, but what they’d really like to do is wash their hands of a huge problem with their brand new solar panel system.

You see, despite all the money they have spent, they can’t use it.

“We are still not able to use the equipment because we’re waiting on CenterPoint Energy to give us permission to operate. That means to connect to their system, so we can’t turn the system on until we get permission and approval from CenterPoint,” the couple said. “It’s been two months now, and we are still paying our full electric bill.

According to the Solar Energy Industries Association, Texas is the second fastest growing state in the nation, right behind California, when it comes to people installing solar panel systems with more than 1,080,000 people now hooked up with solar systems.

That has created a huge backlog problem for CenterPoint in approving households in the metro area.

In a letter to customers like Chris and his wife, CenterPoint writes, “We are estimating 40 to 50 business days from the day it was submitted for us to process a project. CNP is experiencing a large volume of submitted applications and visual inspections.”

All of this means there could be hundreds of families, just like Chris and his wife, with newly installed, solar panel systems that are just sitting there and can’t be used.

Chris said he paid $40,000 cash for his system when it was installed in June.

Still, it can’t even be fired up.

“My ultimate goal was to get it installed before the summer, so I could have the benefits during my peak summer usage but of course, we’re almost done with summer and I didn’t see any benefits over the summertime,” he said.

And with electricity rates having jumped more than 35% this year in Texas, Chris and many other new solar customers just like him will just have to wait.

Chris estimates he won’t be able to turn his system on for at least another three months.

Read Centerpoint Energy’s full statement below:

“Thanks for reaching out and for the opportunity to comment regarding customer solar installations. There are many factors that go into the application and installation timelines, only some of which are within CenterPoint Energy’s (CNP) control. As to those, CNP has developed a web-based portal where installers submit applications on behalf of the customer. This portal allows for the installers and CNP to have visibility into the overall processing of each application. In this portal, CNP provides notes (both specific to projects and general) and notice on the web that processing times have increased lately with an explanation that we are working to improve processing times going forward. A part of the overall increase in processing time is due to a significant increase in the number of applications received from customers in recent years, by as much as 50%. This application process is important to determine a proper connection to the grid, allowing for the safety, grid reliability, and resiliency of both the CNP system and homeowners. To support our customers and work to regain our standard processing targets, we are working to onboard contract services to assist in this effort.”

About the Author:

Emmy-winning investigative reporter, insanely competitive tennis player, skier, weightlifter, crazy rock & roll drummer (John Bonham is my hero). Husband to Veronica and loving cat father to Bella and Meemo.