With the passing of another year, we want to reflect on challenges and accomplishments, so we can continue to grow stronger for the future. The past year highlighted many of the things that make being a PEC member special. We continued supporting our communities and improving the member experience, because as a nonprofit cooperative, we do everything with you in mind.
As we look back on 2021 and toward the future, we reaffirm our commitment to our mission — to provide low-cost, reliable, and safe power to more than a million Central Texans now and for generations to come.
The catastrophic winter storm of February 2021 brought unprecedented challenges for PEC, our members, and the statewide electric grid. Thank you for weathering the storm with us! In March of 2021, we produced a thorough recap of the storm’s impact on PEC’s operations.
While PEC cannot control the weather or prevent ERCOT-mandated power interruptions, we have acted to be better prepared and reduce the impact on our members should another event occur. Review some of these preparations below:
- Shortly after the storm, PEC engaged a third-party to perform an after-action review of the cooperative’s operations during the emergency. Staff responded extremely well, and the report highlighted opportunities to be better prepared in the future. Excerpts from the report can be found here.
- PEC now offers a one-way text alert service, which means we can message members during an emergency, including prolonged power interruptions and mandated rolling outages. Enhanced texting features are planned, so stay tuned.
- PEC created new emergency operations protocols that strengthen communications across the cooperative during mandated power interruptions and better identify individual outages. We’ve also implemented new technology that allows us to simulate events and practice these scenarios to be as prepared as possible for future events.
- Our updated outage map allows members to search in real-time for their address to see if their outage is registered, the status, and the estimated time of restoration if one is available.
- Most system outages during storms are due to falling trees and limbs. As always, we’ve been proactive in performing vegetation maintenance across our service territory. New software has made the identification of areas in need of maintenance much more efficient.
- Key technologies in our electric system have been integrated to improve PEC’s ability to predict and respond to outages, manage ERCOT-mandated power interruptions, and dispatch crews where they are needed most.
- Unmanned Aerial Vehicles (UAVs) allow us to quickly identify the cause and location of outages, so crews can focus their time on repairs. PEC has strengthened the program this year by adding more UAVs to our fleet and providing comprehensive training to our lineworkers.
Serving and supporting our communities is built into our values as a cooperative. In 2021, community and member support totaled nearly half a million dollars! Here’s a look at how we gave back last year:
- Through PEC’s Power of Change Program, with the help of our members who round their bills to the nearest dollar, we provided more than $58,000 to 15 nonprofits in PEC Community Grants in 2021 — the most ever! These funds strengthen our communities by helping area nonprofits fulfill their important missions.
- PEC invested in the future of our communities by awarding 35 scholarships to local high school seniors. And for the first time, we awarded four scholarships to adults seeking to further their education. These 39 scholarships totaled $100,000.
- Our culture of giving also thrives among employees, who together with PEC donated more than $288,000 to 244 charities. Most of the recipients are in Central Texas and include children’s hospitals, scholarship funds, food banks, and other nonprofits.
- Employees also donated more than 5,000 school supplies for area classrooms, and more than 360 toys for holiday toy drives.
- The cooperative gave $24,000 to education foundations and libraries across our service territory, creating a brighter future for Central Texas’ youth.
- In May, PEC launched our free, online summer camp for kids K-2. Camp Save-a-Watt is an exciting way for the cooperative’s youngest members to learn about energy conservation.
Serving our members
- The PEC Board of Directors adopted our 2021-2026 Strategic Plan, which establishes the direction of the cooperative and a strategy that balances achieving long-term objectives with operational priorities and financial discipline. Our primary goals over the next five years will be to:
- Maximize value to our membership
- Achieve operational excellence
- Protect the financial health of the cooperative
- Pursue workforce optimization
- Advance tactical safety and security
- Also in March, PEC refinanced debt to save members millions of dollars and improve cash flow to strengthen our operations.
- PEC began installing advanced metering infrastructure in May. The new meters improve our operations, reduce outage times, and make for a better member experience.
- High-tech software adopted by our vegetation maintenance team has made our system more reliable while minimizing impact to members. The software is used to efficiently identify trees that are at risk of causing an outage for trimming.
- We are always looking for ways to make life easier for our members. That’s why we added Western Union to our convenient ways to pay.
- In March, we were pleased to welcome members back to join our board meetings in person while following COVID-safety protocols.
- In June, PEC exited the active emergency operations plan (EOP) we had been working under since the beginning of the pandemic. During the February winter storm, PEC was actually under two active EOPs!
- At our 2021 PEC Annual Meeting, it was announced that members voted to reelect board members Rister, Graf, and Pataki in districts 1, 6, and 7.
- In 2021, the PEC Board of Directors approved $5.3 million in capital credits distribution to members.
- During the 2021 winter storm, PEC unavoidably incurred debt due to the extreme costs of procuring power on the state’s energy market, damage to equipment, and restoring outages for our members. The impact of the storm cost the cooperative $160 million. As a result, PEC made the difficult but necessary decision to add a Temporary Winter Storm Surcharge to members’ bills. The structure and implementation of this surcharge preserves PEC’s credit rating and will save members millions of dollars over the long term.
- PEC adopted a new solar interconnection rate designed to be simple, sustainable, and fair to all members. Ensuring that we recover the full cost to serve all rate classes ensures that no member subsidizes another member’s power.
- As part of our Cooperative Lighting Program, we’re upgrading street and area lights across our service territory to make them more energy efficient and dark-sky friendly.
The record-breaking growth in Central Texas has not slowed down a bit. Once again, in 2021 we added more meters and welcomed more new members than ever before. PEC teams have been hard at work building and planning for the growth that we anticipate will continue well into the future. In 2021:
- Member accounts grew to over 367,000, adding an average of 1,550 meters per month — a new record.
- Our teams constructed twice as many miles of line in 2021 as they did just eight years ago. We added 586 miles last year, approximately the distance from Austin to El Paso — and anyone who has done that drive knows it’s a long way!
- At this rate of growth, PEC would hit half a million meters in just eight more years.
- Team PEC dominated in their return to international rodeo competition, where our lineworkers took home trophies in the cooperative divisions for best overall journeyworker team as well as the top three places for individual apprentices. This was the cooperative’s best-ever performance in rodeo competition, raising already high expectations for the future.
- PEC’s communications team won an impressive total of four National Rural Electric Cooperative (NRECA) Spotlight on Excellence awards, including gold medals for Most Innovative Use of Digital Communication for our new member website, and Best Individual Ad for our KVUE Friday Night Fever commercial.
- PEC CEO Julie C. Parsley was recognized as a Most Influential Woman of the mid-market for 2021. The list recognizes outstanding women in the U.S. based on their ability to influence change, innovation, and standards for excellence in mid-sized companies.
- We celebrated a very successful first year with our Safety and Technical Training Center in Marble Falls, where PEC is building and training the next generation of lineworkers, right here in our service territory. The facility hosted enhanced training scenarios and held more than 200 crew visits in 2021.
In 2022, PEC looks to hold true to our founding purpose while also addressing the challenges of tremendous growth and changing industry standards. That means planning and execution is underway for infrastructure additions, facility upgrades, and talent recruitment. As we plan for a larger member base and the infrastructure that it will require, we are also focused on maintaining safety, service levels, and competitive rates for our members.
Keep up with PEC activities by following us on our social media channels and by visiting us at pec.coop. Members can also stay connected by using the SmartHub app to pay electric bills, monitor electric use, and report an outage.