Texas Coalition for Affordable Power http://tcaptx.com Make a Powerful Choice™ Sat, 29 Aug 2015 01:56:21 +0000 en-US hourly 1 Oncor to Change Owners? Two BIG Reasons Why You Should Care http://tcaptx.com/regulatory-action/oncor-changes-owners-two-big-reasons-why-you-should-care http://tcaptx.com/regulatory-action/oncor-changes-owners-two-big-reasons-why-you-should-care#comments Thu, 27 Aug 2015 16:35:31 +0000 http://tcaptx.com/?p=12213 OncorThumbIf Oncor raises rates, more than 3 million Texas customers feel it. If Oncor can’t serve those homes and businesses, there’s nowhere else for them to turn.

That’s why North Texas electric ratepayers have a giant stake on Oncor’s potential sale. Even though the Dallas-based company serves an area with retail electric choice, Oncor is a regulated monopoly. Its customers have no choice but to use its services.

A consortium led by billionaire Ray L. Hunt has made a bid to acquire the transmission and distribution utility, the state’s largest. The proposed deal is part of the ongoing Energy Future Holdings bankruptcy (the company filed for Chapter 11 protections last year) and not surprisingly, it’s stunningly complicated.

But here are two issues you should care about.

Kenneth Anderson

PUC Commissioner Kenneth Anderson

First, Hunt and EFH want to continue using a lot of debt in this transaction. This has drawn the attention of at least one key regulator. In a recent memo, Texas Public Utility Commissioner Kenneth Anderson stated that about $5.5 billion in borrowed money will remain with the restructured EFH. As a result, he said, certain protections must remain firmly in place to protect Oncor ratepayers.

Second, Hunt proposes to employ a complicated “real estate investment trust” structure in the transaction. The problem here also is risk. A REIT is a gimmicky corporate device intended to create tax savings for the business owner. However, a REIT has NEVER been used on such a massive utility scale.

The REIT proposal also has been cited in a recent Moody’s report as a potential source of continued regulatory haranguing at the PUC and a potential drag on Oncor’s credit ratings.

For these reasons, the REIT proposal is setting off alarm bells for consumer groups. Anderson says he wants to take a closer look.

“Oncor’s ratepayers ought not to bear any real risk associated either with the pre-existing EFH debt or the proposed REIT structure unless they receive at least commensurate benefits over the long-run,” he stated in an Aug. 20 memo.

The PUC is required by state law to ensure that Oncor’s change-of-ownership does not violate the public interest. Consumer and municipal groups — such as the Texas Coalition for Affordable Power and the Steering Committee of Cities Served by Oncor — have encouraged the PUC to take a hard look.

Geoffrey Gay, general counsel for the Steering Committee of Cities Served by Oncor, said the REIT proposal is particularly troubling. “The acquisition of Oncor merits a thorough regulatory review, and the interests of ratepayers must be a top priority,” he said.

— R.A. Dyer

What is the Texas Coalition for Affordable Power?

TCAP is a coalition of more than 160 cities and other political subdivisions that purchase electricity in the deregulated market for their own governmental use. Because high energy costs can impact municipal budgets and the ability to fund essential services, TCAP, as part of its mission, actively promotes affordable energy policies. High energy prices also place a burden on local businesses and home consumers.
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NEW Snapshot Report: Electricity Prices in Texas http://tcaptx.com/press-releases/snapshot-report-despite-recent-gains-texans-with-electric-deregulation-have-paid-more-over-long-term http://tcaptx.com/press-releases/snapshot-report-despite-recent-gains-texans-with-electric-deregulation-have-paid-more-over-long-term#comments Wed, 12 Aug 2015 15:48:36 +0000 http://tcaptx.com/?p=12078 2015 Report ElectricityPricesinTX-Snapshot-A-FinalFor the first-time ever, residential electricity prices in areas of Texas with deregulated retail electric service have remained below the national average for two consecutive years, according to a new report from the Texas Coalition for Affordable Power.

The analysis also shows a growing number of deals under deregulation with prices that meet or beat prices commonly found outside deregulation.

But despite those positive trends for Texans living under retail electric deregulation, the new analysis also reveals that electric prices in deregulated areas have remained historically higher, on average, than prices outside deregulation. All told, the “lost savings” for Texans in deregulated areas exceeded $23 billion from 2002 to 2013, according to the analysis.

These good news-bad news findings are included in a new Snapshot Report on Electricity Prices released today by TCAP. The online analysis can be found on the TCAP website: http://tcaptx.com/report/snapshot-report-2015-electricity-prices-in-texas

“Texans living in deregulated areas have paid too much for electricity — and the lost savings has been substantial,” said Jay Doegey, executive director for the Texas Coalition for Affordable Power. “But the deregulated market is improving, and the good news is that if you shop carefully, you can find good deals. These relatively low-cost deals are more common than they were in previous years.”

Under the state’s retail electric deregulation law, consumers living in about 85 percent of Texas can shop for electricity in much the same way they can shop for cell phone service. But residents in the remaining 15 percent of Texas have no options for service, and instead receive electricity from deregulation-exempt providers.

This bifurcated system — with some Texans receiving service in deregulated areas, and others receiving service in areas exempt from deregulation — provides a unique opportunity to compare prices. The new TCAP analysis reveals that average residential electricity prices in deregulated areas remained higher than average prices outside deregulation for every year from 2002 through 2013.

That specific benchmark analysis comparing average prices inside and outside deregulated areas does not extend to 2014 and 2015 because the necessary data for those years has not yet been released by the federal government. However, the Snapshot Report also includes more recent Texas Public Utility Commission data that reveals the existence of numerous competitive deals in deregulated areas that meet or beat prices common in deregulation-exempt areas.

Such relatively low-cost competitive offers under retail electric deregulation appear to be more common now than they were in previous years, according to the TCAP analysis.

For the first time ever in a TCAP Snapshot Report, rates charged by the state’s two largest transmission providers also were analyzed. TCAP found that these rates have increased in recent years beyond the level of inflation, and that these transmission and distribution rates typically comprise a larger proportion of home residential bills than they did in previous years.

Transmission and distribution charges are “non-bypassable,” which means that all electric customers in a given region must pay them, regardless of the retail electric provider the consumer has selected for service. The TCAP findings suggest that these non-bypassable charges have contributed to the relatively high price of electricity in deregulated areas.

What is the Texas Coalition for Affordable Power?

TCAP is a coalition of more than 160 cities and other political subdivisions that purchase electricity in the deregulated market for their own governmental use. Because high energy costs can impact municipal budgets and the ability to fund essential services, TCAP, as part of its mission, actively promotes affordable energy policies. High energy prices also place a burden on local businesses and home consumers.

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State Electricity Shopping Website to Filter Irritating Minimum Use Fees http://tcaptx.com/rates-and-service/state-electricity-shopping-website-to-filter-irritating-minimum-use-fees http://tcaptx.com/rates-and-service/state-electricity-shopping-website-to-filter-irritating-minimum-use-fees#comments Fri, 07 Aug 2015 16:55:01 +0000 http://tcaptx.com/?p=11995 PowertochooseHow’s this for irritating? You shut down your air conditioning and appliances to save money, but then get dinged with an extra fee for conserving power.

Welcome to the annoying world of minimum-use fees. These particularly pernicious charges have become increasingly common in the state’s deregulated retail electric market despite objections from consumers, advocacy groups and lawmakers.

Although recent legislation to ban these fees failed at the Texas Legislature, the state Public Utility Commission now says it’s taking action to give consumers fair warning about them.

According to an agency spokesman, the state-sponsored electricity shopping website, powertochoose.org, will soon include a filter to allow consumers to identify these fees prior to selecting an electricity deal. The agency is still working out the details.

“If we can find a way to lessen confusion, we’ll do that,” PUC spokesman Terry Hadley told a reporter for the Houston Chronicle. Hadley also told the newspaper that some companies “probably” intentionally mislead shoppers.

According to the newspaper account, the PUC will add the filter in the next three or four months. The powertochoose.org website already includes other filters, including those that allow consumers to eliminate variable-rate deals and pre-paid deals when comparing offers.

A recent Houston Chronicle investigation found that of the more than 300 electricity deals examined by the newspaper, more than 70 percent included minimum-usage charges. The average was $10.67 per month for customers using less than 1,000 kWh for month, according to the investigation.

The Texas Coalition for Affordable Power has supported legislation to address the proliferation of these charges in the state’s deregulated retail electric market.  That legislation, House Bill 2254 by state Rep. Sylvester Turner, failed under heavy lobby pressure from retail electric providers.

— R.A. Dyer

What is the Texas Coalition for Affordable Power?

TCAP is a coalition of more than 160 cities and other political subdivisions that purchase electricity in the deregulated market for their own governmental use. Because high energy costs can impact municipal budgets and the ability to fund essential services, TCAP, as part of its mission, actively promotes affordable energy policies. High energy prices also place a burden on local businesses and home consumers.
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Oncor behind mysterious price spike? http://tcaptx.com/regulatory-action/oncor-behind-mysterious-price-spike http://tcaptx.com/regulatory-action/oncor-behind-mysterious-price-spike#comments Tue, 21 Jul 2015 18:56:41 +0000 http://tcaptx.com/?p=11821 blog10As much as $50 million. That’s how much Oncor Electric may have cost the Texas electricity market because of an erroneous price spike in May.

The Electric Reliability Council of Texas, the organization that operates the state’s main power grid, is investigating. The price spike occurred in the wholesale power market, and should not impact residential consumers in a direct fashion. However, it may directly impact at least some commercial consumers and retail electric providers.

According to a report written by an ERCOT-organized working group of power companies and regulators, wholesale power prices rose unexpectedly on May 18 when Oncor reported data to ERCOT indicating a West Texas transmission line was nearing capacity. The capacity measurement was erroneous, however, because Oncor supposedly failed to account for a recent transmission line upgrade.

The full effect of the error remains unclear, although the working group estimates it resulted in $4.8 million in additional electricity costs in West Texas. Some media reports claim the total cost to the entire ERCOT system may be as much as $50 million.

The Texas Public Utility Commission is trying to ascertain Oncor’s role in the price spike, and — if necessary — what penalty to assess. One possibility would be to order Oncor to refund retailers the erroneous charges. Such an action probably would require findings of serious fault by Oncor.

You can read more about the mysterious price spike in this report by James Osborne, of the Dallas Morning News.

 

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T&D Utilities: Rate Regulated, but Contributing to Higher Deregulated Prices http://tcaptx.com/rates-and-service/td-utilities-rate-regulated-but-contributing-to-higher-deregulated-prices http://tcaptx.com/rates-and-service/td-utilities-rate-regulated-but-contributing-to-higher-deregulated-prices#comments Thu, 16 Jul 2015 15:35:45 +0000 http://tcaptx.com/?p=11788 CenterPoint Rates 2003 2014Transmission and distribution utilities — the “wires” companies like Houston’s CenterPoint Energy and Oncor, in Dallas — operate as regulated monopolies. They serve millions of customers statewide.

But despite being rate regulated, transmission and distribution utilities have a direct impact on prices in areas of Texas with retail electric deregulation. That’s because utility rates are imbedded in electric prices charged by all competitive retail electric providers that operate in the utility’s service territory.

Over the years the state’s two largest wires companies have implemented increases that outpace inflation. These rate increases at least partially contribute to the relatively high average prices observed historically in deregulated areas of Texas. A review of regulatory filings at the Texas Public Utility Commission reveals that CenterPoint Electric has more than doubled its rates between 2003 and 2014.  You can see summaries of some of those filings here.

In 2003, CenterPoint’s rates comprised between 20.2 percent and 29.2 percent of a typical 1,000 kWh Oncor Rates 2003 2014electric bill, according to a TCAP analysis of PUC data. In 2014, CenterPoint rates comprised between 34.8 percent and 50 percent.

Again, all electric customers in deregulated areas around Houston must pay these rates — regardless of the retail electric provider the customers choose for service. Customers in the Dallas-Fort Worth area faced similar increases.

The Oncor utility increased its rates by more than 67 percent between 2003 and 2014, according to a review of regulatory documents. In 2003, Oncor charges comprised between 20.1 percent and 27.4 percent of a typical 1,000 kWh electric bill. In 2014, the charges comprised between 27.6 percent and 44.1 percent of a typical bill.

Transmission and distribution utility rates are non-bypassable, which means they are included in a uniform fashion by all retail electric providers that operate within the utility’s service area. The rates are set by the PUC, under regulatory law set forth by the Texas Legislature.

The state’s wires companies are active at the Texas Legislature when it is in session, and lobby for favorable regulatory treatment.

— R.A. Dyer

What is the Texas Coalition for Affordable Power?

TCAP is a coalition of more than 160 cities and other political subdivisions that purchase electricity in the deregulated market for their own governmental use. Because high energy costs can impact municipal budgets and the ability to fund essential services, TCAP, as part of its mission, actively promotes affordable energy policies. High energy prices also place a burden on local businesses and home consumers.
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ERCOT Seeks Fee Increase http://tcaptx.com/policy-and-reform/ercot-wants-more-money http://tcaptx.com/policy-and-reform/ercot-wants-more-money#comments Tue, 14 Jul 2015 21:38:22 +0000 http://tcaptx.com/?p=11755 ERCOT FEE REVENUESERCOT wants to increase its revenues — and it’s seeking another rate hike to make it happen.

In documents filed with Texas regulators, the operator of the state’s principal power grid seeks to hike the fee that finances its operations from the current 46.5 cents per megawatt hour to 55.5 cents per megawatt hour.

The nine-cent hike would be applied to wholesale power purchases, meaning that it won’t go directly into home bills. But it’s sure to trickle down anyway, and could increase your energy costs by 10 cents or more each month.

ERCOT, also known as the Electric Reliability Council of Texas, says it needs the extra money to pay for new technology-related projects and for other new responsibilities — including those mandated by federal regulators. It also says it needs the money to keep up with inflation.

But the fee, like a sales tax, is attached to energy consumption. So just as state revenues increase when more goods are sold statewide, so too do ERCOT revenues go up when energy consumption rises. The fee itself also has increased over the years — from 33 cents per megawatt hour in 2003, then later to 41.7 cents, and most recently to 46.5 cents.ERCOT System Fee

This means that ERCOT already is raising more money today from this fee than it raised in previous years.

Consider that in 2009, when the fee was set at 41.7 cents, it generated about $128.5 million for ERCOT. In 2015, with it set at 46.5 cents, it’s estimated to have generated about $159.5 million. That’s about a 24 percent revenue jump.

The new fee structure would lead to about $193.9 million in revenues during 2016 and $197.5 million in 2017, according to ERCOT’s budget documents.  That equates to a more than 50 percent increase in fee-generated revenues in less than 10 years.

The nine-cent increase also represents a more than 19 percent jump from the current rate, and a more than 65 percent increase from the 2003 rate.

ERCOT recognizes that this hike is substantial, but it insists it has — and will remain — a faithful steward of ratepayer money.

“ERCOT knows that it must manage resources carefully on behalf of market participants and Texas consumers who pay to support ERCOT’s operations,” it wrote in a filing at the PUC.

The Public Utility Commission is expected to make a ruling on the ERCOT budget later this year.

— R.A. Dyer

What is the Texas Coalition for Affordable Power?

TCAP is a coalition of more than 160 cities and other political subdivisions that purchase electricity in the deregulated market for their own governmental use. Because high energy costs can impact municipal budgets and the ability to fund essential services, TCAP, as part of its mission, actively promotes affordable energy policies. High energy prices also place a burden on local businesses and home consumers.
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Low-income Texans expected to receive $50 electric bill discounts http://tcaptx.com/policy-and-reform/low-income-texans-expected-to-receive-50-electric-bill-discounts http://tcaptx.com/policy-and-reform/low-income-texans-expected-to-receive-50-electric-bill-discounts#comments Wed, 01 Jul 2015 16:33:58 +0000 http://tcaptx.com/?p=11684 Low-income Texans can expect help in their electric bills, thanks to House Bill 1101.

Low-income Texans can expect help in their electric bills, thanks to House Bill 1101.

About $52 — that’s how much money low-income Texans can expect to save on their electric bills each month for an entire year under a proposal before regulators on Thursday.

The discounts will flow through August 2016 and reduce bills by nearly five cents per kilowatt hour.  Action taken recently by the Texas Legislature — in particular the adoption of House Bill 1101 by state Rep. Sylvester Turner, a Houston Democrat — make the discounts possible.

The legislative action also ensures than a quarter billion dollars already collected for the low-income discounts are not diverted elsewhere.  The Texas Coalition for Affordable Power, a leading advocate for House Bill 1101, called that bill the most important this year for electric customers.

“These discounts provide a great service to low-income electric consumers,” said TCAP executive director Jay Doegey. “The legislation that made it possible also is great policy. It ensures that money collected from ratepayers for a declared purpose is used for that purpose. And in this case, the money helps the neediest among us to pay their light bills.”

Rep. Sylvester Turner

Rep. Sylvester Turner

While the Texas Public Utility Commission already administers a discount program, that program would have abruptly ended next month absent legislative action. Under HB 1101, the three PUC commissioners must still set the amount of the discounts and agree to other details — actions the commissioners could take during their regular meeting on Thursday.

Money for the low-income program comes not from tax dollars, but through fees previously paid by electric users statewide. Those fees flowed into a special government fund — the System Benefit Fund — that was created as part of delicate negotiations with consumer groups during the adoption of the 1999 electric deregulation law.

But the Texas Legislature over the years held back much of the money, using it not for rate discounts but for budget balancing purposes. In 2013 the Legislature voted to end the System Benefit Fund for good, but also to expend the accumulated balance on rate discounts.

The 2013 authorization expires at the end of August, even though there still remains unspent more than $226 million.  Without Turner’s bill and related appropriations legislation, the accumulated balance very likely would have been diverted to other purposes.

Turner’s legislation also changes how the discounts are applied. Under previous rules, the discounts could only be applied for five months and could not exceed 15 percent of a given bill. Turner’s bill lifts that cap and allows low-income Texans to receive the discounts for 12 months.

Thursday’s proposal at the PUC would set the discount at approximately 31 percent. PUC officials have said that the discount may be adjusted upward or downward during the year, depending on variables such as participation in the low-income discount program and the weather.

If money remains unspent in the System Benefit Fund beyond August 2016, House Bill 1101 allows the discounts to extend as far as August 2017.

An electric customer qualifies for the discount if the customer receives Medicaid and SNAP benefits, or if the customer’s household income is at or below 125 percent the standard included in federal poverty guidelines. Only customers in areas of the state with retail electric deregulation qualify.

The Public Utility Commission has more information on their website, which can be found here.

What is the Texas Coalition for Affordable Power?

TCAP is a coalition of more than 160 cities and other political subdivisions that purchase electricity in the deregulated market for their own governmental use. Because high energy costs can impact municipal budgets and the ability to fund essential services, TCAP, as part of its mission, actively promotes affordable energy policies. High energy prices also place a burden on local businesses and home consumers.

 

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TCAP Members Receive Summertime Dividends http://tcaptx.com/press-releases/tcap-members-receive-summertime-dividends http://tcaptx.com/press-releases/tcap-members-receive-summertime-dividends#comments Wed, 24 Jun 2015 14:55:09 +0000 http://tcaptx.com/?p=11778 TCAP-LogoThe Texas Coalition for Affordable Power, an electricity buying group comprised of Texas cities and political subdivisions, in June rebated back to its members $750,000.

Nearly 90 percent of TCAP’s 169 political subdivisions will receive the checks. Individual disbursements will vary by city, depending upon electric usage and other factors.

“Our coalition is operated by cities and for cities — that’s how we’re able to distribute these rebates,” said Jay Doegey, TCAP’s executive director. “Surplus funds, beyond those needed for reserves, flow back to our members. This is an important benefit of TCAP membership, and one you won’t see offered by for-profit electric companies. TCAP contracts also deliver long-term savings to cities and rock-solid protections against electric market volatility that otherwise wreaks havoc on city budgets.”

Jay Doegey

Jay Doegey

TCAP is a non-profit coalition of cities that have joined together to purchase power in bulk for their own governmental use. Backed by the power of its numbers, TCAP negotiates competitively priced energy contracts that also include important member protections. City officials oversee the non-profit coalition.

The reimbursements announced this week are not the first — since 2011, TCAP members have received more than $8 million in refund checks. TCAP members around the Houston area, in South Texas and around the Dallas-Fort Worth Metroplex were awarded the most recent disbursements. The checks varied in size from a few hundred dollars to tens of thousands of dollars.

For instance, the City of Arlington will receive more than $52,000 in June and has received nearly $500,000 since 2011. Corpus Christi received more than $77,000 this month and approximately $890,000 since 2011. McAllen received more than $30,000 in June and more than $335,000 since 2011. Smaller communities have received smaller checks, such as the more than $9,000 disbursed to the City of Whitney since 2011, the more than $68,000 distributed to Hurst during that time, and the more than $54,000 distributed to the City of Midlothian since 2011.

TCAP, thanks to its unique contract, received refunds from its supplier for technical services procured by the state’s grid operator that cost less than anticipated. The coalition holds back a certain amount to meet contractually required reserves, and then refunds the rest back to members. This is in contrast to for-profit retail electric providers, who typically retain this excess margin.

TCAP member cities in West Texas did not receive refunds in June for reasons relating to power transmission and distribution constraints in the West Zone of the ERCOT grid. However, TCAP member cities in West Texas typically enjoy the lowest energy charges among TCAP members.

TCAP also provides members a number of other important services, including access to professional energy consultants and advocacy before the Texas Legislature and state regulators. Because high energy costs can impact municipal budgets and the ability to fund essential services, TCAP, as part of its mission, actively promotes affordable energy policies. High energy prices also place a burden on local businesses and home consumers.

For more information about TCAP, or to learn how your city can become a member, go to tcaptx.com.

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Company Faces Penalty for Improperly Cutting Power During Cold Weather http://tcaptx.com/regulatory-action/company-faces-penalty-for-improperly-cutting-power-during-cold-weather http://tcaptx.com/regulatory-action/company-faces-penalty-for-improperly-cutting-power-during-cold-weather#comments Wed, 17 Jun 2015 21:29:56 +0000 http://tcaptx.com/?p=11592 ColdWeatherMeterOuch! Direct Energy, a retail electric provider popular in Texas, faces a $220,000 penalty for initiating service disconnections during two extreme weather events last year.

Cutting power to consumers during weather emergencies — even if those customers have fallen behind in their bills — is generally prohibited under Public Utility Commission rules.

But according to documents filed at the PUC, Direct Energy initiated disconnections during an extreme weather emergency on Feb. 6, 2014 against 69 customers who apparently fell behind in their bills. It initiated another 183 disconnections during an extreme weather emergency on Feb. 11, 2014, according to documents.

Apparently, only 10 of the initiated disconnections were actually completed. Direct Energy told regulators that the disconnections were the result of administrative errors, and has agreed to pay the $220,000 settlement, according to the PUC documents. The company also said it has increased staffing and retrained existing employees to avoid similar problems in the future.

“Due to an administrative error, Direct Energy sent disconnection requests to the (transmission and distribution provider) during a weather moratorium, resulting in the disconnection of ten customers,” the company said in a prepared statement. “Direct Energy regrets this incident, and has cooperated fully with the Public Utility Commission of Texas during the investigation.”

The company statement appeared on the website of energychoicematters.com, which reports on electricity issues nationwide. The settlement still requires approval by PUC commissioners.

— R.A. Dyer

What is the Texas Coalition for Affordable Power?

TCAP is a coalition of more than 160 cities and other political subdivisions that purchase electricity in the deregulated market for their own governmental use. Because high energy costs can impact municipal budgets and the ability to fund essential services, TCAP, as part of its mission, actively promotes affordable energy policies. High energy prices also place a burden on local businesses and home consumers.
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84th Texas Legislature: Good News & Bad News for Energy Consumers http://tcaptx.com/policy-and-reform/84th-texas-legislature-good-news-bad-news-for-energy-consumers http://tcaptx.com/policy-and-reform/84th-texas-legislature-good-news-bad-news-for-energy-consumers#comments Mon, 08 Jun 2015 15:53:30 +0000 http://tcaptx.com/?p=11531 Texas CapitolNearly a quarter billion dollars in rate discounts will continue flowing to 530,000 low-income Texans under legislation adopted last month in Austin. That bill — assuming Gov. Greg Abbott signs it into law — will represent the biggest victory of the 84th Legislative Session for Texas energy consumers.

 But not all the news is so rosy. The session ended June 1, but unfortunately not before consumers suffered a number of setbacks.

Just below is a list of five important bills, and whether we view the corresponding fate of each as good news or bad news for Texas energy customers.  The thumbs up and thumbs down symbols reflect consumer wins and losses, not the merits of the bills themselves. That means a good bill (such as HB 3749) could receive a “thumbs down”  by failing to win adoption. Similarly,  a potentially harmful bill would receive a “thumbs up”  if it failed to pass.

thumbs-up-icon  House Bill 1101, by state Rep. Sylvester Turner, will provide more than $200 million in assistance to low-income ratepayers. Funding for this program comes not from tax dollars, but from fees we’ve already paid on our electric bills. This legislation ensures that money collected from Texans for one purpose is not diverted to another. HB 1101 also helps the neediest among us to pay their light bills. It was approved by both the House and Senate and Gov. Greg Abbott signed it June 17th.

thumbs-up-icon House Resolution 3425 would have delayed for several years an intensive review of the Texas Railroad Commission, which is the state agency that oversees gas utility rates. The resolution emerged unexpectedly during the waning days of the session, passed in the Senate, but then died in the Texas House. Its death came as good news to several lawmakers, consumer groups and city coalitions — each of whom have called for agency reform.

thumbs-down-iconHouse Bill 3749, by Rep. Jim Keffer, would have helped preserve the ability of cities to protect their citizens’ interest in gas utility cases.  It was supported by consumer and city groups, but failed to emerge from the Texas House. We view that as bad news for anyone who pays a gas bill.

thumbs-down-icon House Bill 2254, also by Rep Sylvester Turner, would have prohibited electric companies from applying minimum use fees on home bills. These fees are quite common. They’re also one of the most annoying gotchas in the retail electric market. Despite his best efforts, Rep. Turner couldn’t get this one out of committee.

thumbs-down-iconSenate Bill 777, by Sen. Troy Fraser, would have given the Texas Public Utility Commission more tools to crack down on bad actors in the state’s retail electric market. This bill had the support of the PUC and the Texas Coalition for Affordable Power. It emerged from the Senate, but died in the House.

— R.A. Dyer

What is the Texas Coalition for Affordable Power?

TCAP is a coalition of more than 160 cities and other political subdivisions that purchase electricity in the deregulated market for their own governmental use. Because high energy costs can impact municipal budgets and the ability to fund essential services, TCAP, as part of its mission, actively promotes affordable energy policies. High energy prices also place a burden on local businesses and home consumers.

 

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