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State Rep. Vikki Goodwin (D-District 47) recently voiced her opposition to new rates for those with solar energy panels in a letter she sent to the Pedernales Electric Cooperative Board of Directors. The board is set to cast its final vote on the issue at its meeting Friday, Dec. 17, which starts at 9 a.m. at PEC headquarters, 201 S. Avenue F in Johnson City. 

Goodwin represents western and far south Travis County. 

“Reducing the rate paid for received energy by such a steep amount provides a perverse incentive to solar members,” Goodwin wrote in her letter. “By cutting the rate so drastically, the board would be putting in place a set of incentives that would actually increase pressure on the grid.”

The new buy-back rate will cost PEC members with solar about 4 cents more per kilowatt-hour for the power they buy from PEC versus the excess power PEC buys back from them. PEC charges 9.347 cents per kilowatt-hour for the electricity it sells to solar users but buys back the excess at 5.377 cents — a 42.5 percent cut.

PEC members against the new solar rates are expected to once again speak out at the public meeting, asking the board to reject a recent value of solar study and to conduct a new one that takes into consideration the positive impact of increased solar generation on the environment and supply. Members opposing the new rate also voiced their concerns at the cooperative’s regular monthly meeting Nov. 19. 

Public Citizen, a nonprofit consumer advocacy organization, has joined in opposing the decrease in the buy-back rate. 

“Instead of having net metering, which allows the customer to do a one-for-one offset, this new proposal would make it so that the solar energy the member is giving back to the grid is less valuable than what they are pulling from the grid, even though this is happening at the same location,” said Kaiba White, climate policy and outreach specialist with Public Citizen. “This comes about because PEC rushed through a process to do a value of solar study without asking for any input from members on what value they put on solar and how they might be affected. There was no analysis from the staff on how this will affect members’ bills.”

According to their own calculations, concerned members say their bills could go up as much as 50 percent or higher, depending on when they are generating their own power and when they are buying power from the grid. 

PEC staff counter that net metering subsidizes solar customers at the expense of other members. Of the more than 300,000 PEC customers, only 6,000 have solar panels. 

“We have to set rates based on the actual cash cost,” PEC Chief Financial Officer Randy Krueger said at the Nov. 19 meeting. “Otherwise, we are picking winners and losers among members.” 

The Dec. 17 vote is the second and final vote on the issue. The new rates will go into effect March 1, 2022. 

Also on the agenda is a final vote on new tariff and business rules for electric service. And the board will give final approval to the board election timeline and meeting schedule for 2022. All are final votes and have been discussed and received a preliminary vote at previous meetings. 

To attend the PEC meeting virtually, follow directions at this link.