PEC members ask board to not raise solar rates

The utility's board of directors will vote on the proposed changes at December's meeting. (Courtesy Adobe Stock)
The utility's board of directors will vote on the proposed changes at December's meeting. (Courtesy Adobe Stock)

The utility's board of directors will vote on the proposed changes at December's meeting. (Courtesy Adobe Stock)

The Pedernales Electric Cooperative Board of Directors met Nov. 19 and heard from members about a proposed raise in rates for solar panel use at their homes.

On Dec. 17, 2020, the board of directors for the PEC—which provides energy for most of Hays County along with service to various parts of 23 other counties throughout Central Texas—voted in favor of new rates that would increase transmission costs and peak demand charges for the more than 5,000 members out of more than 364,000 that currently have solar panels installed on their homes. A one-time application and connection fee would total $650 for new solar customers. Those rates have since been revised and would not go into effect until Jan. 1, 2022. The proposed rate change discussed could make solar more expensive because it would charge more for the energy received by customers from PEC than they pay for energy returned to the utility generated by residential solar panels.

“Because the only source of funding is our member rates, we have to ensure that ​​rates our members paid are equitable. So the cost or the energy of the distribution are shared among members in a reasonable and nondiscriminatory manner,” said Randy Kruger, chief financial officer for the PEC. “We do recognize that we need to pay our solar members the appropriate price for the power they generate, and we do believe we are going to propose a rate that is fair, but it also must be fair to all of our members,” Kruger said.

About a dozen members spoke mostly against the rate changes and insisted two recent studies published by the PEC on the cost of solar did not include consideration of the environmental benefits of solar power.

“This flawed study aside, PEC should have a focus group of members to let them hash out what we want to know about solar as it relates to its full value. Let them come up with a list of what we want to examine and then commission another study, one with member input that looks at the full value of solar. It isn't just hard dollars,” member Kathi Thomas said.


PEC member Ling Zhu said that because the PEC is a member-owned electric utility co-op, it should consider that on-site solar and battery storage created voluntarily by members provides a benefit to the whole community.

“PEC told the consulting firm to exclude the environmental benefit in the study. This is the difference between Austin Energy and PEC. [Their] energy consultant calculated that the value of solar is 12.8 cents per kilowatt hour including the environmental benefit calculated from a renewable energy price. While [the] PEC proposed solar rate is higher than most Texas cooperatives,” Zhu said.

The board will vote on rate changes at the December meeting.
By Eric Weilbacher

Editor, New Braunfels and San Marcos/Buda/Kyle

Eric joinedCommunity Impact Newspaper as an editor in July 2021, returning to journalism after several years in the New Braunfels business community. Prior to CI, Eric freelanced for multiple publications and was a reporter for the New Braunfels Herald-Zeitung. He brings a passion for accurate, compelling story telling and human interest to his work.



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