All posts by Cristi

PEC members invited to annual meeting June 20

Reposted from pec.coop

Pedernales Electric Cooperative members are invited to the Co-op’s annual meeting June 20 in Cedar Park. The meeting will be held at Cedar Park High School in the South Performing Arts Center, located at 2150 Cypress Creek Road in Cedar Park.

At the annual meeting, PEC members will have an opportunity to cast their ballots in the 2015 PEC election if they haven’t already voted by mail or online. Members will also get to hear reports on the Cooperative’s activities and initiatives, and they’ll also have the opportunity to address the Board of Directors.

For more details on the meeting, view the full article at www.pec.coop

VOTING DEADLINE IS JUNE 12: Keep local control of your co-op

11427167_903913376337407_7957555560055107509_nThe PEC Voting deadline approaching…just a few more days to June 12. If you have voted, thank you. If you have not yet voted, be sure to vote by mail or online as soon as you can.  This will be a close race and this election is critical for PEC’s future and yours.

If you have not received your ballot or if you can’t find it, you can call the PEC Election service at 866-909-3549, Monday through Friday, and a new ballot will be sent to you via e-mail, along with an election ID, password and instruction on how to vote.

You have seen for yourself the tremendous transformation made at PEC in recent years. 

  • PEC rates are lower than national and state average residential rates at this time
  • PEC is delivering outstanding service and there are many initiatives underway to continually improve performance.
  • Capital credits pass on to members every year. 

We are on the right track, and we are working hard to reduce your electric rates further. PEC is a source of  community pride and we enjoy our independence and autonomy as PEC member/owners.

This election could change that if members don’t get involved.

There are candidates who want to privatize the co-op by opting in to a system called “customer choice”. Getting into a competitive retail market in PEC service territory is NOT A VIABLE SOLUTION to lower rates. It only deregulates the utility and opens it to profit -driven interests. Rates will be higher. Additional charges will be applied to your bill and will therefore increase the cost of your electricity far beyond the advertised rates you’ve agreed to.

The one co-op that has entered into “choice” now has higher rates than the PEC rate of $116.20 per 1000kWh.  “Choice” HAS NOT WORKED for members.

The “Choice” decision is a HIGH-RISK route to dissolve PEC. In that situation, members have to scan the market to find their own Retail Energy Provider and manage their own energy contract. Retail Energy Providers are profit driven, PEC is non-profit and you, as members, are the owners.

WORSE: “CHOICE” is an EXPENSIVE decision that IS ALSO IRREVERSIBLE ACCORDING TO STATE LAW. We would be under Public Utility Commission authority.

This is a critical election. I urge you to vote and I ask for your support. Together, we can continue our work to keep PEC locally-run and autonomous.

Thank you

Re-Elect Cristi Clement
PEC Director District 1

PEC member and energy industry professional Rick Thomas speaks against PEC deregulation

electricpoleIn a recent letter to my opponent, PEC member and Lakeway resident Rick Thomas made a great point against deregulation through well-rounded authoritative research. Mr. Thomas is an energy industry professional and is experienced in co-op management.

Mr. Thomas has provided me with a copy of his letter and has authorized me to repost its points to my Website and share its value with friends,  neighbors and supporters.

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Here are the main points:

Point #1 — It is questionable whether the proposed retail rates include all applicable charges, therefore they do not make an accurate comparative schedule with PEC’s current rates.

Mr Thomas: “First, from the comparative schedule of energy prices from November 2014 (source unknown) I see that the Competitive Zone REP price is 7.8 cents. What I can’t discern is whether  the source author has included the TDU charges. If TDU charges are not included, then the schedule would seem to not be a valid comparison since I believe the other utilities’ rate would be the “all in” cost. […] In a quick web site review, I found over 20 competitive offers for eligible Texans, with an energy price ranging from 8.5 cents per kWh to almost 15 cents per kWh, all with varying terms and conditions — which can be confusing. I believe the TDU charges of approximately 3 cents would then be added for a sum total of 11.5 cents to 18 cents per kWh respectively. I even found one quote that encourages more kWh usage rather than less..the more the purchaser uses, the lower the cost. That seems counter-current to energy conservation but I guess that is the market at work. Also, I question whether the rate comparisons of cooperatives vs munis were adjusted for member density and load characteristics. Those factors can affect a comparison substantially; in my opinion much more study is warranted and necessary in such an important matter as the discussion of deregulation of PEC. It seems imperative to me that all members of PEC must understand the potential outcomes of retail competition, which fundamentally shifts the risks of the electricity market/power supply from the cooperative as a group ( the reason cooperatives were formed in the first place) to the individual member.

Point #2 — Most members have no desire to shop for retail energy sources and retail choice produces marginal results at best.

Mr Thomas: “Secondly, from my personal standpoint, my PEC electric rate is approximately 11 cents per kWh, and given the high level of service and reliability the PEC provides, I have absolutely no desire to shop for other energy sources. Interestingly, after a number of years in the electric industry myself, I had discovered little solid empirical evidence that, over the long term, deregulation at the retail level has resulted in lower rates , particularly to cooperative members. Moreover, I found most electric cooperative residential members were not interested in shopping for alternative sources of energy; however, commercial and industrial customers would likely shop. Perhaps all that has changed over the last couple of years. I think the members understand that their cooperative’s sole mission is to provide dependable and reliable service at reasonable costs. They expect to choose a Board of Directors that will work together to make good policy decisions and ” look out for the members’ interest”. 

Point #3 —The elimination of all travel and on-site training for directors would have absolutely no impact on rates.

Mr Thomas: “The example of director travel restrictions, etc. seems very small in relation to the bigger PEC cost picture. Perhaps we should continue to focus on other cost items such as long term power supply , renewable energy requirements, transmission congestion issues, and a national energy policy. I suggest the ongoing PEC Director vs Cooperative lawsuit ( Austin American- Statesman, May 6, 2015) could likely create more unnecessary legal/staff expense than all directors’ travel expense for a year, and best I can read, with no real member benefits resulting from the dispute. In my opinion, as a matter of principle, the lawsuit of this nature is unnecessary, unwarranted and wasteful of cooperative resources.”

Rick Thomas, Lakeway, TX

FRIENDS OF PEC TO MEMBERS: Corporate and Political Interests Attempt to Sway Pedernales Electric Co-op Directors Election

The-Future-Of-ElectricityPolitical groups and energy company affiliates are actively interfering in the director elections for the Pedernales Electric Cooperative, a non-partisan group known as Friends of PEC charged today.

“Running our billion dollar co-op should be about good business, good service, and low rates – not about partisan gamesmanship, and certainly not about giving control to any political party,” said Friends of PEC chairwoman Shirley Beck.

Friends of PEC said it has obtained evidence that private energy company executives from Houston and Midland are trying to influence the outcome of the PEC elections, and appear to be spending tens of thousands of dollars to elect certain candidates.

In addition, the group charges that highly partisan Republicans are bringing an unhealthy political focus to heretofore non-partisan PEC elections – one example being a county Republican Party Resolution offering a partisan litmus test for the election, and endorsing a slate of candidates.

Recent postcards sent to members tout a slate of “conservative” candidates Paul Graf (Dist. 6) and Amy Akers (Dist. 7). The postcards are from Texans for Affordable Electric Rates, a project of the American Reform Coalition, which claims to support consumer education, economic health, and the “overall wellbeing of the American family.”

A look at their websites reveals that these groups don’t appear to be doing anything other than trying to influence the PEC election. The president of the board of directors, John Michael Wilshusen, is also president of an energy consulting company that operates in Dallas and Midland. The secretary of the board is Alan Morgan, vice president of Remora Oil Company, based out of The Woodlands.

Why would these corporate interests bankroll PEC Board of Directors candidates? Generally, candidate Jeff Barton and incumbents Cristi Clement and Larry Landaker have campaigned for diversifying the co-op’s energy sources, and to take advantage of record breaking low current pricing of Texas-based solar and wind technologies.

Another organization, called Texans for Low Cost Power (TFLCP) is promoting Mark Axford (Dist 1), Paul Graf (Dist. 6) and Doug Kadjar (Dist. 7). Kadjar is an officer of the Hays Constitutional Republicans, and Axford’s wife, Trixie Bond, is a Republican precinct chair. TFLPC seems to be a vehicle for tea party and libertarian activists on the right wing of the Republican Party who argue that PEC directors should be elected based on their commitment to the Party and a commitment to abandon the co-op in favor of for-profit retailers.

If customers want lower rates, deregulation isn’t the answer. The Nueces County Electric Cooperative is the sole example of a deregulated electrical co-op in Texas and both its rates and those of newly introduced for-profit retailers are higher than those at PEC. Nueces County charges about $142 for 1,000 kilowatt hours, compared to only $116 for the same amount of energy from the PEC.

Friends of PEC, an officially registered not-for-profit, non-partisan organization, has endorsed Barton and incumbents Cristi Clement and Larry Landaker. The Friends of PEC board is made up entirely of longtime co-op members.

“We sent each candidate a questionnaire, invited every candidate to respond, and we’ve even published the responses of the candidates we endorsed on our website (http://friendsofpec.org/our-candidates/questionnaire-responses/), so everyone can see for themselves their qualifications and their positions,” Beck said. “We don’t ask candidates what political party they identify with, and we don’t care. In fact, we are actively against ‘Washington style’ partisan campaigning.”

Clean Water Action also endorsed candidates based on written candidate questionnaires, which all candidates were invited to submit. The questions focus on the PEC’s programs for energy efficiency and renewable energy, and on the water-energy nexus. Unlike wind and solar, coal and gas-fired power plants require enormous amounts of water to function. The questionnaire and answers received can be found on its web page: http://cleanwater.org/feature/vote-now-pec-election.

TOM SMITH: When it comes to the PEC, don’t mess with success

By Tom “Smitty” Smith — Smith is a Pedernales Electric Cooperative member who has advocated for open governance, lower rates and cleaner energy at the co-op for seven years.

The-Future-Of-ElectricitySince 2007, the Pedernales Electric Cooperative (PEC) has launched multiple reforms with stunning results. Along with purging corrupt leaders — including two top executives convicted on criminal charges — the reformed PEC has significantly lowered customer bills. In May, the average bill will be 9 percent lower than it was 10 years ago. More than $65 million in capital credits has been returned to member customers. Changes in bylaws have codified members’ rights and provided them with new opportunities to participate in the co-op’s decision-making.

Yet, some candidates for the board are determined to mess with success. Some candidates would deregulate the PEC, claiming deregulation would lead to lower bills for customers.

In 60 percent of Texas, electricity markets are deregulated. But it’s far from clear that being able to “shop for power” actually benefits consumers.

First, retail electric providers (REPs) are designed to maximize long-term profits for shareholders and executives, not minimize customer bills, which is one of the fundamental operating principals of electric cooperatives.

Second, in order to attract customers in a deregulated market, retail electric providers use highly aggressive, sometimes deceptive sales tactics. If you look hard enough in deregulated markets, you can find deals with lower rates. Those include bait-and-switch strategies, which lure customers into short-term deals that have hidden long-term fees, like minimum usage charges and early termination costs.

Nueces County Electric Cooperative is the sole example of a deregulated electrical co-op in Texas. It charges about $142 for 1,000 kilowatt-hours, significantly more than the PEC, which charges $116 for the same amount of energy. According to the Nueces County Electric Co-op website, the lowest rate offered in the area is $123 per 1,000 kilowatt-hours — far above the PEC’s rate.

This legislative session marks the fourth time Texas legislators have tried to force the PEC to form single-member districts for electing directors, instead of allowing at-larger voting to continue. Some candidates for the board endorse this approach. In fact, the debate has been ongoing within the PEC’s board for five years; the board has done studies of the impact that changing the process would have and asked its members to vote on whether to change it – twice. Both times, co-op members voted no.

Why? Because under a single-member system, the board would be hugely Austin-centric, since the vast majority of co-op members live in or near Austin. Meanwhile, rural members would have virtually no voice. With the current at-large, direct democratic vote, every board member has to think about how their decisions will affect all voting co-op members, including those from rural districts.

The PEC story shows how well member-controlled utilities can work. In the last seven years, the PEC has regained control of the board and management. The PEC has audited itself and eliminated huge executive salaries, hidden bonuses and board member perks. Meanwhile, it has also managed to reduce rates three times.

Through webcast meetings, the PEC has opened up its governance to scrutiny from all of its members. The PEC has adopted a bill of rights for all members and conducted a survey to find out how members want the co-op to operate in the future.

What’s next for the PEC? Plan for growth; buy or contract for new sources of electricity; plan for drought; develop new rates; educate members on how to save energy and money; and develop a new business model that allows the co-op to pay its bills even while consumption declines with increased energy efficiency.

At the moment, three of the PEC’s seven board seats are up for re-election. Now is the time to review the candidates’ positions and vote for whoever will lower average bills, fairly represent rural and urban members, and plan for a more energy-efficient and less water-intensive future.

Smith is a Pedernales Electric Cooperative member who has advocated for open governance, lower rates and cleaner energy at the co-op for seven years.

IMPORTANT: Former Travis County Commissioner Karen Huber endorses Cristi Clement (District 1) and Larry Landaker (District 6)

karenhuberphotoDear Friends,

As you consider your vote for Pedernales Electric Cooperative’s (PEC) Board election, please note there are pivotal issues to consider. Since I was involved at the earliest stages of reform efforts for PEC and have followed closely its continuous improvement, I wanted to share my thoughts with you.

When the new PEC Board took over in 2009, after the Fuelberg era, much needed to happen. PEC had never given its members “capital credits.” It had refused to embrace renewable energy. Its Board election process and governance lacked transparency and was rife with financial abuse. It had numerous questionable contracts. In general, PEC was a mess.

Christi Clement and Larry Landaker are two of the new era Board members (both up for re-election) who successfully guided PEC into a responsible organization. Under their leadership, PEC now has a budget (yes that’s correct!), internal audits, policies for open meetings/open records/open elections, a Whistleblower program, Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy goals, a Strategic Plan, a Directors’ Code of Conduct and an Ethics policy. None of these existed before this new era board.

They also established PEC’s first, ever, recurring distribution of capital credits – about $70M since 2009 – back to members and have increased member equity from a low 17% to a healthier range of 35% to 42%.

Major reforms take time but Clement and Landaker have been key players in accelerating the speed and effectiveness of these reforms. PEC is now reaping the benefits for its #1 priority — lowering of rates. Worth noting are three rate reductions in the past year, alone – all while maintaining a service-reliability rating among the highest in the nation.

Some candidates want open choice for PEC customers – meaning freedom to choose between purchasing electricity from PEC or from an investor owned utility (IOU). I have consulted with utilities including analyses of performance criteria and I will take a cooperative any day over an IOU. As co-op members, we own our utility and can make desired changes, as demonstrated in the ousting of the previous regime. IOUs are publicly owned companies that must respond to investor profit demands rather than ratepayer demands. Co-ops offer members local control and that’s critically important. While an IOU can manage its rates to attract new customers, evidence exists that over time, both their rates and reliability offer no advantages over a well run cooperative and in many cases do not perform as well. PEC is at risk of instability if we elect board members who want to allow co-op members such choices.

So, I’m voting for Cristi Clement (District 1) and Larry Landaker (District 6). Both believe in cooperatives and have extremely important knowledge bases about utility operations. They have gained back member trust for PEC by virtue of a superior record of accomplishments. They are progressive and innovative. Clement and Landaker are already winners, doing a stellar job. No changes are needed here! I hope you will consider joining me in supporting them.

Information on all candidates is available at www.pec.coop.

Karen Huber

Former Travis County Commissioner, Pct. 3

Protect your co-op. Now is the time to take action and vote.

The ballots are in the mail. Yours may come today or tomorrow.

NOW IS THE TIME TO TAKE ACTION AND VOTE!

clement2014-300dpiThis is a critical election.  This year the destiny of PEC is in your hands. Our opposition is promising lower rates and there’s nothing new about that. But their proposed path to lower rates is immediate deregulation or “customer choice”.

This essentially is a high risk route to dissolve PEC and hand members over to profit-hungry Retail Energy Providers (REP). Under this plan, you have to find your own energy. 

REPs are businesses skilled at deceptive and confusing sales tactics.  Their goal is to maximize long-term profits for their shareholders. PEC is non-profit and member-owned. Do not hand over your co-op and your interest to big businesses who do not put you first.

Going into a competitive retail electric market in PEC service territory is NOT A SOLUTION to lower rates.  The single co-op that has entered into “choice” now has higher rates ($144 for 1000kWh) when compared to PEC at ($116.20).

“Choice” HAS NOT WORKED THUS FAR in rural territories… but Co-ops do.  That is the reason why PEC was formed in the first place.

Moving to “choice” would be sacrificing long-term stable and competitive PEC retail prices under our LCRA contract. Electric rates in a competitive market are subject to extreme volatility as they are connected to the rise and fall of natural gas.  Natural gas prices WILL rise. At such time, members will appreciate the stability that our wholesale power agreement provides. 

Our contract also allows us to purchase on the competitive market and we already use that feature when pricing is advantageous.  We do not have all of our eggs in one energy basket and are working to diversify further .

TRANSFORMATION IS WORKING WELL FOR ALL OF US. TOGETHER, WE HAVE COME FAR.LET’S NOT MESS WITH SUCCESS AND KEEP IT UP THE GOOD WORK.

  • We have lowered rates three times since 2014—our rates are now 9% lower than they were 10 years ago!
  • More than $68 million in capital credits have been paid back to our members. 
  • PEC rates are slightly lower than the “average” residential rate according to Public Utility Commission, January 2015 data.  But we want to lower our rates more, while not sacrificing reliability or safety or customer service. We are focused on achieving that soon.

PEC is a source of pride to our members and a role model for other electric cooperatives across the country.  Let’s keep our co-op autonomous!

THANK YOU FOR YOUR SUPPORT AND CONTINUED TRUST. TODAY, RE-ELECT CRISTI CLEMENT AS PEC DISTRICT 1 DIRECTOR.

District 1 candidate forum set for 7 p.m. on May 20 at Quail Point Lodge

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As ballots get to PEC members’ maiboxes, the HSB POA has joined with local Republican groups to organize a full-on candidate forum. This is an important event. It is a chance to test each candidate’s knowledge, abilities and vision for PEC.

I look forward to meeting everyone and reaffirming my plan for PEC’s future. Let’s outline how we can move forward by building on our current successes.  We have worked hard at rebuilding PEC and we have kept our promises.

PEC must remain an autonomous co-op and a desirable workplace. Moving forward, we have to remain focused on delivering reliable power at the best possible rates, while keeping our co-op strong and free of conflicts of interests.

The floor will be open for questions about current issues and plans:

  • Electricity rates
  • PEC policies and strategies for the future
  • PEC’s energy portfolio
  • Board governance and by-laws
  • PEC public giving
  • Member representation.

Thank you for your continued support.
Together, let’s keep PEC moving forward.

  • When: 7:00 PM, Wednesday, May 20th
  • Where: Quail Point Lodge
  • (107 Twilight Lane, Horseshoe Bay, TX 78657)

UPDATE: Friends of PEC endorses Cristi Clement for PEC District 1 Director

Clement-Landaker-1

Marble Falls-based citizen group ‘Friends of PEC’ has announced its endorsement of Cristi Clement for PEC District 1 director. The group also supports Larry Landaker for the position of District 6 director.

Both candidates offer similar views on the future of PEC and are committed to work tirelessly to provide reliable and affordable power through a variety of sources. Their vision for the future includes giving PEC members an extended array of tools to adjust the cost of power based on their individual needs . Both stand in favor of an autonomous co-op model and are fierce protectors of members’ rights and privacy.

Ballots will be in the mail by May 20, 2015. For more details on how to vote, click here.

REFORMS YEAR-TO-DATE TRANSLATE INTO LOWER RATES AGAIN

It is wonderful to see reform efforts begin to pay off!!

PEC has lowered rates 3 times since November 2014. That’s real savings for every member.The March 1 reduction took our total cost of $118.70/1000kWh. The May 1 reduction takes it to a $116.70 range. Our average member (1275kWh) will save about $15 per month—about $180 a year!!

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PEC has moved into a favorable comparison with the state average residential rate of $117.60 — as reported by the PUC to the Texas Legislature in January. And there is more to come!!

We’re not finished; we’ll be looking for any future opportunity to lower rates again!

Lower-rate pledges have to be more than campaign rhetoric.

Rates adjustments call for a delicate balance to be achieved between systems reliability, employee safety, and the continuity of capital-credit returns to members. Sound fiscal management practices are in place now and we all benefit.

Thank you for your continued trust in PEC. It’s our coop, let’s protect it.