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Pedernales Electric Cooperative Members to Board: Don’t Punish Us for Using Solar

JOHNSON CITY, Texas – On Friday, Nov. 29, Pedernales Electric Cooperative (PEC) members spoke out against a proposal that would increase bills for those with solar energy systems at their homes.

The proposed rate change, discussed at a PEC board meeting on Friday, would make solar a more expensive option because it would charge customers more for energy they receive from PEC than the energy they return to the utility. Those who work outside the home would be most disadvantaged because they may not immediately use all the energy they are producing. Some members have estimated a nearly 50% increase in their bills under the new proposal.

“PEC’s proposed solar rate is a slap in the face to the 5,000 members who already invested in solar energy, and a signal to other members not to do the same,” said District 2 PEC member Carlos Santillana. “PEC staff haven’t even analyzed the impact to members, but substantial cost increases are coming, if this proposal is adopted.

PEC hasn’t held any stakeholder meetings or offered other public comment opportunities since the previous solar rate proposal was debated last May and June. The new value of solar study was hastily conducted over the past couple of months to meet the utility’s self-imposed, year-end change deadline. It does not consider benefits to the climate from a transition to clean energy.

“A good study has a list of questions to answer, and the questions shouldn’t be ones that point to a particular outcome,” said District 4 PEC member Kathi Thomas. “By not allowing input from members, the PUC’s study went wrong from the start. The study doesn’t follow best practices and ignores benefits that members with solar are providing to the co-op. Its findings are also way out of line with most other value-of-solar studies conducted around the country.”

This proposed rate change to discourage distributed solar adoption will detract from ongoing efforts to improve grid reliability.

“Since PEC is member owned co-op, on-site solar and batteries are distributed micro power plants for the whole PEC community,” says District 4 PEC member Ling Zhu. “The more members use solar, the more PEC is shielded from volatile wholesale market prices and increasingly expensive transmission costs. It’s time for PEC leadership to recognize the true value of solar energy and educate non-solar members of the benefits of clean energy.”

Several members urged the board on Friday to consider the use of solar energy as a way to help address the climate crisis, as well as reducing other environmental impacts.  Members also pointed out that in the past, the utility encouraged members to invest in solar at their homes, but board and staff changeover have shifted priorities, leading to inconsistent PEC policies and messaging.

The PEC board is scheduled for a vote on the new rate at its December meeting.