Minimal monthly impact of $3.00 per 1,000 kWh
In past communications, we relayed that based on finalized costs and the ability to defer over time, we would develop a plan and make final adjustments for the over $37 million incurred for power cost due to Winter Storm Uri in February. We had also hoped that through this last legislative session, we, and all other electricity providers and their rate payers would get some relief. Sadly, that did not happen.
Recognizing that the impacts of collecting those costs in a single month or even a year, would be impractical and unduly burdensome to our members our board adopted a resolution to give us guidance for collecting the costs. Much work has been done with our G&T’s (where we buy our power) to pay these costs. They procured the necessary financing to pay the bills, allowing us to choose a period to pay and recover these costs.
Minimizing impacts to members has been the focus. The recovery period determined the amount we would have to change our PCRF to meet that. The shorter the time, the steeper the PCRF rise. The longer the time, the less the PCRF would need to be raised.
The outcome is that the PCRF1 (See footnote for definition) will be adjusted to .04 cents per kWh for a period of about 7 years. This allows a portion of the PCRF to be applied against the storm debt, while continuing to collect for power costs fluctuations normally recovered by the PCRF. The costs to members will be a manageable number and cost $3.00 per 1,000 kWh, based on our PCRF today.
This 2021 PCRF increase will be made incrementally, until it reaches .04 cent per kWh. The current PCRF is .037 cents per kWh. On July 1, it will increase to .038 cents. On August 1, it will increase to .039 cents. On September 1 it will increase to .04 cents.
The balance of the costs that must be recovered is $27 million. The time to recover costs could be reduced, or extended, based on the fluid nature of power costs and kWh sales to our members. But using current factors at hand, along with projections, we estimate it will take around 7 years2.
Please know, as a non-profit we remain focused on minimizing costs to the members we serve. We understand that every increase impacts you budget. This event was not within our control, but we are doing our absolute best to manage the fallout to ensure our members remain insulated. As a non-profit, our power costs are a pass-through and we do not profit from them.
This issue has been multifaceted and affected our entire industry. Some household consumers were tragically hit with bills totaling thousands of dollars. AT WCEC, we are fortunate for the relationships we have with our non-profit G&Ts – East Texas Electric Cooperative, and Northeast Texas Electric Cooperatives. These partnerships, and their ability to secure long-term financing options, are in large part, what has helped our cooperative be able to pay the storm bill over time and give relief to our members. We are grateful for this, and for each of our members, as we work for you.
It is always our goal to be as transparent as possible. If more information becomes known on this subject, we will share it. In the meantime, please know we will continue to work to reduce the payout timeframe and amounts, if new circumstances bring about any relief.
- The Power Cost Recovery Factor (PCRF)
WCEC Members have fixed rates. A base power cost is built into all our rates to help us recover the cost of power that fluctuates on the open market. As wholesale costs rise above the base power cost, the PCRF is used to recover those costs. The main advantage of a responsive PCRF is that as fuel prices rise and fall, it can be adjusted upward or downward. The PCRF is multiplied by the number of kWh’s a meter uses per billing cycle.
This recent PCRF change is driven by what it cost to buy power during the unprecedented weather event and is passed through to the members. As a non-profit electric cooperative, WCEC does not mark-up power costs or make a profit from these costs.
- Adjustments Are Projected
Numbers are based on currently available information. The recovery time could be reduced, or extended, based on market prices, other weather events, and/or kWh sales to member.
WHAT MEMBERS CAN DO TO REDUCE THEIR COSTS OR BETTER BUDGET
The PCRF tracks with kWh use. Therefore, reducing consumption through conservation measures is one way to lessen the impacts of the PCRF increase.
Another immediate recourse is for a member to change the way they pay their bill to an option that best meets their own budgeting schedule. This can be done by moving to a different billing cycle to the first, middle or last of the month, by choosing levelized billing, or by selecting SmartPower. To discuss any of these options, call a member service representative during cooperative business hours (M-F from 8:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m.) at 903-763-2203. For more details:
Billing Cycles – WCEC has 8 billing cycles each month, and those members that are current on their bills can choose a new cycle with the best timing to help them better pay their bills. For example, if your paycheck arrives at the end of the month, you can move your billings cycle to better accommodate that.
Levelized Billing – This is a way for members to even out payments to avoid billing peaks and budget better. When you sign up for Levelized Billing, you’ll be billed the average amount over your previous twelve-month history. Payments are made automatically from your bank account, and they will be close to the same amount each month, so it’s easier to budget. Anyone who has been a co-op member for at least a year and has a zero current balance is eligible for the plan.
SmartPower – With this prepay system, there are no deposits, no big monthly bills and no late fees. In fact, if we are holding a deposit, it can be returned to members that chose this option. Members simply add credit to their account when it’s convenient, and they can do it 24/7 via the website, the bill pay App or by telephone. Once an account is established and has a credit balance, energy use is recorded. Charges are deducted daily from the credit balance. As the balance lowers, a member makes additional payments to ensure credit remains to keep the power connected. Members are in full control of the process.
In conventional billing, members receive bills long after they have used the electricity and can be surprised by a big bill. Sometimes, it can be a struggle to pay, especially during peak months. With SmartPower, there are never any surprises. SmartPower users can make daily, weekly or bi-weekly payments, and select purchase times that suit their own schedules and finances. Another advantage is prepay members save about 15% to 20% on their monthly bills because they remain more aware of electricity use as they are using it.
Income Based Help – There are government and charitable organizations in our region that help with utility bills if their conditions are met. We encourage members to contact them to determine resources that may be available. We have a list here, or just dial 211 for the Texas Health and Human Services Department for help with eligibility.