AUSTIN (KXAN) — Solar customers will be keeping some money in their pockets come January. The board of directors for the Pedernales Electric Cooperative revoked increasing rates for solar customers during a meeting Friday.
The proposed changes would have included time of use charges, which would mean higher rates during peak hours, typically during the hottest parts of the day or the hours around dinner time.
As it is, solar customers are paying less than three cents per kilowatt-hour for distribution. Under the now-revoked proposed bill structure, customers would have paid a “demand charge” of $5.15 per kilowatt during peak demand times.
“There is a possibility of saving some money, but there is also the impact to the grid, the positive impact, of taking that afternoon strain off of the grid just when it needs it,” said Devon Humphry.
Humphry installed his solar panels in December 2010. His $50,000 investment is helping those who use Pedernales Electric, and he said it’s an investment that came in handy during the February winter storm.
“In fact, as soon as we were able to clear six inches of snow off our panels, we were actually putting power back into the grid,” said Humphry.
The PEC members’ decision was overturned by a room full of solar customers who showed up to the July 16 meeting, arguing the solar impact to the grid provides a benefit to the over 350,000 customers who use Pedernales Electric.
The board of directors for PEC will consider rate increases for solar customers at its July 16 meeting — increases that have caught the wary eye of at least one major solar company as well as some homeowners who have purchased panels.
“We’re a very small percentage of your overall consumption, but with this attitude you’re not going to grow,” said a solar panel owner during the July 16 meeting.
Solar and other renewable power sources are top of mind for many homeowners who lost electricity during this year’s historic winter storms. Companies such as Freedom Solar have taken a public stance against PEC’s proposed hikes.
“The study they had commissioned in 2019 that led them to these rates was not the full picture,” said Sherren Harter, director of marketing for Freedom Solar.
Freedom Solar has seen an influx in new solar buyers since February’s winter storm. Harter said at least 20 new customers were on standby, debating purchasing solar because of the potential rate hikes.
“People are wanting to take control of their energy production just for the security of their homes and their family,” said Harter.
The problem is as wind and solar energy become more common energy sources, utilities and grid operators may have to adjust their revenue models to recoup distribution costs.
The PEC board plans to re-evaluate the increased rate conversation at a later date.