Pedernales Electric Cooperative
This note is aimed at PEC members as I ran for the role of Director for District 3 in 2017. Though I didn't win, I enjoyed the experience and appreciate the support of all those who provided signatures so that I could be included on the ballot.
I sought election because I think this will be an important and interesting time to be part of the PEC. The industry is in the midst of rapid change and technological developments are presenting interesting opportunities and challenges. Such periods are when it is most meaningful to participate in an industry. The management team and the staff under John Hewa seemed to have done well, adding new services, improving delivered value, lowering rates...I had hoped to participate in strengthening those trends, even if disappointed by Mr. Hewa's sudden departure.
Among important systemic challenges:
- Increased borrowing. I hold this up as a tough problem with no simple solution. It is just tough work to be managed as it is due to growth inside the PEC territory and the capital expenses that drives. Few of our market systems are designed to force growth to pay for itself and electric transmission infrastructure is one where we choose to socialize the vast majority of the associated expenses as is true for most utilities and to electricity transmission infrastructure in particular. We perceive reasonable access to electricity, and clean water, as something to which everyone should have access and I support that sentiment. On the plus side, my impression is that senior management worked well of late to lower the cost of future capital to deal with this expansion.
- A very long supply contract with LCRA. This is a simply a legacy constraint on supply and investment options, but we have sufficient leeway in the medium term to explore the growing options on how to best supply power safely, reliably, and at diminishing cost. I will favor capital investment inside our territory and in our membership over source alternatives that remove wealth from the cooperative. I want to see us invest in our cooperative membership when the option exists and such opportunities will grow.
- Solar and wind investment inside the cooperative are an increasingly superior option due to lower cost, greater local economic value, and betterment of the sustainability and resilience of the generation on which we depend. The PEC is much improved in this regard, supporting net metering and offering above wholesale compensation for excess generation by residential solar power producers and the interconnect of larger systems. An example how a Cooperative can share net benefit between member and the utility.
- We are at the cusp of rapid growth in electrification of the transportation market. This will be a great opportunity to greatly expand sales volume without requiring a vast investment in new infrastructure. It is a profound opportunity to better leverage our existing infrastructure and improve its use, again benefiting both member and Cooperative.
Challenges create opportunity and I think the PEC is well poised for continual improvement with the exercise of some vision for what the cooperative can do for its members. There are myriad opportunities to improve the service offerings and beneficial affects of the cooperative on the community health and welfare.
The Board has performed well in general in recent years and seems to be generally supportive of the direction of the management team. That said there are times when the board's motivational transparency could be improved. An example that I would point to comes from the August 2016 meeting in which an election rule change was adopted in a move to single-district voting. I am neutral on that rule change (more) - but I was not happy with the means of its rapid adoption. It came and went before most were aware that it was a pending resolution, nor were member concerns effectively addressed. This issue has been voted down by the membership at two prior annual meetings and even at the specific board meeting at which it was adopted the majority of members who took the time to attend the meeting voiced opposition to the measure. No matter a Director's stance on an issue, I would expect to see acknowledgement of such a reality and some effort to logically address the concerns raised. This is a board session worth watching (link here) or at least review the minutes. This event sparked my interest in running for the District 3 Director role.
I assure you that if members present at a meeting were to oppose my way of thinking on a vote, I will not ignore that fact. I will acknowledge such instances, re-examine my own reasoning, document my thought process, and establish metrics to measure results. How else might we learn as individuals or an organization? If I actively oppose the desires of a majority of the membership there will be no doubt about my reasoning why.
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