New rates and fees affecting Pedernales Electric Cooperative members with solar panels — or wanting to install solar panels in the future — were adjusted and, in one case, rescinded for further study. The decision came at the July 16 regular meeting of the board of directors at PEC headquarters in Johnson City.
Rates adopted by the board in December 2020 that were due to take effect in January 2022 were rescinded and will be part of the annual 2022 rate plan discussion this fall.
The issue revolves around changing rates from net metering to time-of-use metering and how buy-back rates relate to when solar panels generate a surplus.
Board President Emily Pataki of District 2 acknowledged the complexity of time-of-use metering.
“We need to make sure buy-back is equitable,” she said. “In trying to create the perfect policy, we want to make sure it is balanced for everyone.”
The board also changed the name and dropped the prices of interconnection fees for solar.
A proposed $250 interconnection fee now will be called the application and engineering study fee. That fee will remain in place but is refundable if a solar hookup is not viable for that home. The name change reflects the reasons for the charge: to pay for the cost of an engineer to inspect the property.
A $400 fee originally called the interconnect fee will decrease to $250 and now be called the interconnect agreement and inspection fee, also to reflect the reason for the fee. The reduction of $150 reflects the cost of installing an advanced metering infrastructure meter, or smart meter, something that is being done free of charge for every member in the co-op over the next few years.
Board discussion on the changes was moved up on the agenda at the suggestion of District 5 Director James Oakley.
“Lots of people are here based on a false narrative,” said Oakley, referring to members attending the meeting to speak during the member-comment period listed as No. 5 on the agenda. “I request we take up agenda item 13 prior to comments. I think a lot of what will be presented will answer some of these issues.”
Three short presentations led the audience and the board through background information on how and why PEC operates when it comes to rates and fees.
“Our motivation to change rates comes from two things: Our desire to address member inequities or a desire to lower the cost via lower debt levels,” said PEC Chief Operations Officer Eddie Dauterive.
District 1 Board Member Milton Rister pointed out that, as a public entity, PEC is not eligible for government funds that help incentivize solar installations.
“We have to fund that with member rates,” he said. “If we had the money to do that, we would.”
The information did change many of the public remarks.
“I had a prepared speech, but I’ve thrown that away based on the resolution to set aside the December resolution and to conduct further studies,” said co-op member John Hoopingarner. “Thank you for that.”
Others expressed concern that PEC based its decisions
on a cost-of-service study that did not include the benefit of generating electricity from a renewable resource.
“I think you should do a comprehensive value of solar study,” said Jeff Haynes, another co-op member. “This is a time we should be growing solar. I expect Texas and all of us to be forward thinkers when it comes to energy.”
After returning from a short break, board members voted in the changes they outlined during the presentations.
“Despite how it may have gotten out there, that it was an intent to punish certain members with a hard-to-understand rate, that was not the intent,” Pataki said after the vote. “One great thing about being a cooperative is being able to listen to our members … and we can come up with a workable solution. I think we will get there. I want to thank everyone who took the time to give us your feedback.”