Rural Coop Spotlight: A Case Study for Solar Customer Engagement
Bandera Electric Cooperative (BEC),a rural Coop Northwest of San Antonio, is changing the way we view electric utilities and solar. BEC places customer engagement at the forefront of their services, and because of this BEC has created and continues to improve on ways to make their utility services more transparent and accessible to their members.
For example, BEC seeks to understand their members and address concerns headon. In2014, after conducting surveys and speaking with their members, they realized that things needed to change. Members were no longer looking for water heaters or surge protectors, they wanted renewable energy options!
Shortly after receiving member feedback, Bill Hetherington, BEC’s CEO, decided that their services needed to adapt to what their members were wanting and enact services that allow their members to maximize the efficiency of their utilities.
A Customer-Centric Approach to Solar
After gaining a better understanding of their customer needs, Bandera Electric Cooperative establishedBEC Solar in 2016. This program was launched to complement their existing utility services and also members with knowledge, options and renewable energy resources to drive new innovation and increase transparency amongst members. BEC continues to direct their focus on making solar energy more efficient and widely accessible by providing solar incentives to their members.
BEC Solar Incentives
In order to encourage people to make the switch to solar energy, BEC Solar has enacted several incentives that not only will expand members’ usage of solar energy but put more money back in members’ pockets.
Time of Use Rates
The average American is used to getting their electric power from the grid and pays a fixed amount of money per kilowatt (kW). Time of Use (TOU) rates, however, work a little differently. Instead of a fixed charge, TOU rates vary based on the time of day that you use electricity and shift with the demand for instantaneous power supply. BEC Solar is using the TOU rate option to offset electric prices and empower members to earn more money for their energy generation. This means that if members generate energy during peak-hours, they will get paid a higher amount based on the wholesale energy price.
Capacity Buy-Back Programs
BEC Solar also aims to help members by recognizing the value of their storage capacity. This program takes advantage of members’ ability to generate and store energy. BEC Solar offers members money back when they are able to go off the grid and use their own stored energy during peak hours.
Low-Cost per Watt
BEC Solar offers low solar energy pricing at $3/watt with a 10-year warranty and full support to members which sets them apart from other competitors. Although BEC Solar does not have the lowest rates in the Central Texas area, they offer unparalleled member support, access to tools like Apolloware, and long-term warranties.
Rebates and Tax Credits
And let’s not forget there are also incentives at the federal level to switch to solar energy. As part of the federal Investment Tax Credit under the Consolidation of Appropriations Act of 2021, solar energy customers are able to deduct up to 26% of their solar energy system installation cost from their federal taxes. The sooner you get your solar energy system, the better because as of January 2023 customers will only be able to deduct 22%.
Apolloware – Prosumer Engagement + Home Energy Management
Similar to the “check engine” light in cars, Apolloware was developed to monitor your home energy system in the same fashion. Apolloware is a cloud-based energy analytics and management platform that allows members “real-time” access to their home energy system.
Apolloware focuses on three main components: grid optimization, DER integration, and energy efficiency. These three components allow BEC Solar members access to tools such as grid health monitoring, real-time system alerts, and energy assessments/ audits. BEC Solar incorporated this tool as a way for members to gain an understanding of their energy consumption, generation ($$$) and role in resource conservation. .
If you are interested to learn more about how solar, storage and alternative energy can help you save money and create a backup for those pesky grid outages, contact NATiVE Solar to learn more about your options and our “cash-back” energy performance guarantees.
For more information on how Bandera Electric Cooperative is paving a way to a more sustainable community check out their website: