PEC wraps up landmark year of growth and innovation
It was another exciting year of bringing the cooperative difference to the Texas Hill Country.
In 2016, we saw more of the nationally top-ranking community growth that’s made us the largest and one of the fastest-growing distribution cooperatives in the country. As our region continued to flourish, so did PEC: In 2016, we added 12,140 new meters and ended the year with upward of 287,000 active accounts — an all-time high.
Working to provide more kilowatt-hours of electricity to more meters was a challenge, but we didn’t let it affect the excellent customer service our members have come to expect. Our commitment to excellence was reflected in a J.D. Power ranking of 15th in residential customer satisfaction among all electric utilities nationwide, as well as most improved. Our credit rating was also reaffirmed AA- by Fitch Ratings, and PEC appeared on the National Cooperative Bank’s Co-op Top 100 list.
Responsiveness and reliability
We know PEC members count on us to provide safe, reliable power. Our reliability numbers have long been enviable within the industry, but we’re working to make them even better. Last year, we introduced a new outage management system that allows us to respond to outages more effectively than ever before. In addition, our new centralized control center allows us greater grid control, improved crew dispatching, better communication with our members and an overall reduction in outage duration.
To increase our responsiveness, we introduced two new powerful tools to the PEC fleet. Our first small, unmanned aircraft allows teams to conduct efficient aerial surveys of lines and outage areas without ever having to set boots on member property. Also new this past year is our mobile command center, a two-trailer system that allows us to establish a base of operations directly at the site of a power emergency.
These are just a few of the ways we’re working to get the lights back on faster.
These innovations and others translate to savings for our membership. We were able to offer our members two rate reductions in 2016, the latest of seven consecutive rate reductions since December 2014. We also returned approximately $6 million to our members through Revenue Adjustment Factor credits and distributed $8.9 million through capital credits.
On top of that, controllable costs are down for the fifth year in a row — from $422.81 per consumer in 2012 to $377.14 in 2016 — and new operations efficiencies and innovations are further reducing that number.
Automating and driving innovation
Contributing to our swifter, lighter footprint were several initiatives in automation and environmental innovation.
In 2016, our members continued to enthusiastically embrace our popular SmartHub platform: at the end of the year, we had 173,000 active SmartHub registrations, with nearly 70,000 members utilizing the My Usage tool each month. A third of our members are engaging in automatic payments and one quarter have enrolled in paperless billing, allowing the cooperative to save in operations costs that we pass on to members.
We had landmark news in October of 2016, when our hard-working vegetation maintenance team earned a $1 million grant from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service for the protection of endangered species in our beautiful Hill Country service area. In that same month, we were able to negotiate a short-term innovative wind power contract that saved the cooperative and our members more than $2.5 million.
In 2016, we continued our longstanding commitment to community giving and involvement: we gave $50,000 in PEC Scholarships to high school seniors and sent six students to Washington, D.C., as part of the national Youth Tour program. Our employees tirelessly gave their time and energy to causes including the Central Texas Food Bank, toy drives, Meals on Wheels, and even partnered with NRECA International to help electrify villages in Haiti. We gave $40,382 in community grants to area nonprofits, $24,000 to the Bright Lights Bright Minds Program and, through matching employee contributions, $291,925 to 319 organizations that serve communities throughout our service area.
The year also saw the launch of two exciting new community-oriented programs. Our Power of Change program allows members to voluntarily round up their energy bills to the nearest dollar for charity. These funds are supplemented by PEC and put toward our community grants and Bright Lights Bright Minds program, allowing members to turn their pennies into thousands of dollars’ worth of community change. Last year, 6,814 members enrolled in this program, raising more than $22,000 that will support education and area nonprofits.
In this new year, we thank you all — our members, employees, board and partners — for a remarkable 2016. We look forward to many more years of growing, innovating and bringing the cooperative difference home to you.