Frequently Asked Questions

Frequently Asked Questions

1.  What do all the numbers and charges mean on my bill?  Click here to see an example of a bill and how to read it.

2. Why is there a facility charge on my bill?    

A facility charge is a monthly charge that Big Country Electric Cooperative (BCEC) members pay to help cover the basic cost of bringing electricity to their location. It covers some of the expenses the cooperative incurs regardless of how much electricity is sold. The facility charge helps cover such things as:

    * Trucks, wire, transformers and power poles needed to build and maintain the electric distribution system;
    * Labor to build and maintain the lines;
    * Cost of insurance, interest, and taxes.

Because all cooperative members benefit from having reliable electric service available when they need it, the facility charge allows everyone to pay a share of the basic costs.

Members sometimes ask why BCEC's facility charge is higher than neighboring electric utilities. It's because of our low consumer density; BCEC serves an average of two customers per mile of line. Compare this to a city where the average density is easily more than 30 customers per mile of line. It is always more economical to serve areas of higher density. However, BCEC's average rates remain competitive with those neighboring utilities.

BCEC serves a diverse membership. Some of our members use a lot of electricity all year long, and some may use electricity only one or two months per year. Whether you use a lot or a little, the cost of getting electric power to your location remains the same. And that is why your electric bill has two separate charges: the facility charge to cover basic costs, and the per kWh charge for the actual amount of electricity consumed.

We hope this brief explanation helps answer your questions about the facility charge portion of your electric bill. Please call us if you have any billing questions.

3. What is the Power Cost Adjustment charge and why does it change each month? 

The electric utility industry (like most industries) is incredibly overstocked with its own set of acronyms.  PCA is another one in that long list.  PCA is an acronym for Power Cost Adjustment and it is something Big Country Electric Cooperative (BCEC) deals with on a monthly and sometimes daily basis.  The PCA is the rate component, on all electric bills, that is a direct reflection of the fluctuating cost of natural gas required to run an electric generation plant.   
 
Since BCEC is a distribution cooperative, our wholesale power is purchased from a generation company, Golden Spread Electric Cooperative (GSEC).  Approximately two-thirds of the wholesale power BCEC gets from GSEC is generated using natural gas as the fuel.

When natural gas prices rise, it costs more to produce electricity and this is passed through to BCEC and its members by an increase in the PCA.  So while BCEC’s rate for the price of electricity has not changed, members will pay more with an increased PCA.
 
One way to think about PCA is to compare it to the cost of gasoline for your car.  Even though your monthly car payment (the rate) hasn’t gone up, the car you drive is costing more to operate now because just as natural gas prices have risen, so have gasoline prices at the pump (the PCA).

Natural gas prices do not just affect BCEC or GSEC — nearly every electric utility in the nation is facing this same issue.  With the growing use of natural gas as a fuel for electric generation, demand for natural gas grows annually.  As we all know, with demand high and supplies lower, the price is going to rise.

To minimize the impact of this charge on our members, every attempt is made to “level” the PCA monthly, rather than to pass on the sometime extreme monthly fluctuations from our wholesale supplier. However, significant changes in fuel charges may make it necessary to adjust the PCA more dramatically.

The main advantage of monthly changes in the PCA is that it is more responsive to changes in fuel costs.  If fuel costs go down, our members are not stuck with a higher cost indefinitely.  Investor owned utilities, such as AEP and TXU, can only make rate adjustments for changes in fuels costs twice annually and must gain approval from the Public Utility Commission of Texas to do so.  This means their fuel cost adjustments may remain higher for their customers for an indefinite period of time and no one knows for certain when or if natural gas prices will decrease from their current levels.

To help curb the effects of high natural gas prices, BCEC encourages all members to conserve energy.

4. Do I have unclaimed Capital Credits? Click here to see!