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The Pedernales Electric Cooperative broke ground in December 2021 on a new transmission center in Leander, which should be competed by the end of 2023. Courtesy photo
By the end of 2023, the Pedernales Electric Cooperative expects to be operating its own transmission plant from a new transmission center now under construction in Leander.
“It is unusual for a co-op not to operate its own transmission,” said PEC Chief Executive Officer Julie Parsley at the Board of Directors meeting Feb. 18. “We are returning to what should be the common state of everyone else.”
Currently, the Lower Colorado River Authority operates PEC’s transmission. The LCRA also maintained and operated the cooperative’s distribution system until 1979. The current contract with the LCRA ends in 2024.
“That put us at a crossroads to what we want to do,” Parsley said. “LCRA now carries the full burden of our operations, which have grown over time.”
Parsley and LCRA General Manager Phil Wilson are meeting with the Texas Public Utility Commission the week of Feb. 21 to discuss the details of turning over control to the cooperative.
PEC has more than 300 miles of transmission lines that are interconnected to 81 substations and $150 million in net transmission assets that are expected to double in the next five years. The co-op maintains the transmission assets but does not operate them.
“It is a growing part of our footprint and our growing asset base,” Parsley said. “We’ve been updating transmission lines and are looking at potentially adding a transmission line in the Wimberley area.”
Taking over operation of transmission will improve reliability and result in long-term financial benefits for co-op members, Parsley continued. It also will give PEC a voice in the Electric Reliability Council of Texas (ERCOT) market.
“Earnings on the investments in the transmission business will help stabilize costs to membership,” Parsley said. “Transmission lines are energy highways, and as our own operator, PEC is in the driver’s seat and will have more say over our portion of that highway.”
To operate transmission requires a transmission control center. The one now under construction will be state of the art with the highest security. It will employ 20 full-time workers. The cost of construction and operation will be part of the rates charged to all utilities in the ERCOT system.