Texans beware: If you live in one of the two largest Metropolitan areas of the state, you could soon be paying more for electricity. Both Oncor (in the Dallas-Fort Worth  area) and CenterPoint Energy (in the Houston-Galveston area) have announced plans to hike rates. Between them, the two electric delivery companies serve about 5 million Texans.

Oncor, which operates power lines in North and West Texas, blames a bad economy and reduced growth for its planned rate request.  But as Dallas Morning News reporter Elizabeth Souder points out in an Oct. 30 article, Oncor’s revenues aren’t going down, but up.  Oncor’s net income rose nearly 13 percent from a year ago, from $132 million to $149 million, according to Souder.

So far no word on how much more money the company wants. Oncor says it will present its rate request to the Texas Public Utility Commission by the end of the year. If approved, it would be the second increase for the company in as many years. Oncor serves about 3 million customers in the Dallas-Fort Worth area.

CenterPoint Energy in Houston also wants to hike its rates. If approved, approximately 2 million customers would end up paying another $111 million each year for power, or about 5 percent more on a typical bill. The rate request is already before the PUC.

Both proposed increases would impact all electric customers in their respective areas, regardless of the retail electric provider that serves the individual customer. They would also add to the already high electric prices in Texas. Recent data shows that Texans pay considerably more for power than do residents in adjoining states. Texans also pay above the national average for power, according to recent year-to-date information from the federal government.

A coalition of 34 area cities has announced its opposition to the CenterPoint hike, citing evidence that the utility instead should cut rates by about $150 million. A separate coalition of cities is also expected to scrutinize the Oncor request.

One-Way Ratemaking

CenterPoint  and other utilities also are pushing separate anti-consumer initiatives known as “streamlined” or “one-way” ratemaking.  Consumer groups oppose one-way ratemaking because it would allow monopoly electric utilities to obtain rate hikes without first submitting to meaningful regulatory review.

City coalitions that oppose one-way ratemaking include the Cities Aggregation Power Project and the South Texas Aggregation Project, which together are comprised of approximately 150 municipalities and other political subdivisions throughout the state.

— R.A. Dyer