85th Texas Legislature: Consumer & Utility Update

Written on: March 22, 2017

We’re at the halfway mark in the 85th Texas Legislature. More than 100 energy-related bills have been filed, and many of them — if adopted — could impact your home electric rates. Some important energy bills have come up in committee, although most have yet to bubble up to the full House or Senate.

Here are a few bills we have our eye on:

  • Senate Bill 735, by Sen. Kelly Hancock of North Richland Hills, would require the Public Utility Commission to establish a schedule under which it would periodically determine whether electric utilities are charging fair rates. SB 735 also includes various other reforms that generally favor ratepayers. The legislation was considered on March 9 in the Senate Business and Commerce Committee, although it has not yet been voted out.
  • Senate Bill 947, by state Sen. Lois Kolkorst, facilitates the creation of municipal hike-and-bike trails on utility rights of way — but at little or no cost to the city for the underlying land. HB 947 accomplishes this by lifting some liability exposure for the electric utilities that own the land. The Senate Committee on Business and Commerce unanimously approved this legislation on March 14 and we expect consideration soon by the full Senate. Rep. Rick Miller (of Sugarland) has authored very similar legislation, House Bill 931, which is to be considered March 22 in the House State Affairs committee.
  • House Bill 963, by state Rep. Mary Ann Perez, directs retail electric providers to provide low-income customers with information about bill payment assistance programs available locally. HB 963 was crafted in response to the loss this year of LITE-UP Texas, which was the state’s principal program to help low-income Texans pay electric bills. TCAP expressed support for HB 963 when it was considered March 8 in the House State Affairs Committee.
  • House Bill 2576, by state Rep. Senfronia Thompson, removes an expiration date from current law that pertains to the PUC’s ability to consider certain sorts of electric utility rate hikes. Although this change seems small, it could open the door to more frequent rate hikes than what we would otherwise expect if the expiration had remained in place. HB 2576 has not yet been assigned to committee.
  • House Bill 788, by state Rep. Tan Parker, establishes an “Electric Grid Security Advisory Committee” to issue a report on grid security. It has been assigned to the House Appropriations Committee, but has not yet received a hearing. HB 788 is one of several bills filed this session relating to the security of the ERCOT electric grid.
  • House Bill 2910, by state Rep. Dan Flynn, would direct the Public Utility Commission to deem as unreasonable any utility distribution rates if those rates are equal to or greater than 175 percent of the average of such rates charged elsewhere in the ERCOT region. This bill has not yet been assigned to a committee.

— R.A. Dyer

What is the Texas Coalition for Affordable Power?

R.A. Dyer is a policy analyst for TCAP,  a coalition of 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.

Menu