Here’s the good news. The most recent federal data from the United States Energy Information Administration shows that residential electricity prices in Texas have dipped below the national average. That means Texans are saving on their electric bills, at least in comparison to the rest of the nation.
Now, comes the bad news: relative to the rest of the nation, Texans received a better deal before we deregulated our electricity markets.
According to the federal data, Texans so far this year have paid electricity rates that are 2.59 percent below the national average. But in 1999, the year the state legislature adopted the retail electric deregulation law, we Texans got an even better deal — paying 7.48 percent less than the national average. The same was true in 1998, when we paid 7.38 percent less; and in 1997, when we paid 7.24 percent less.
In fact, during the entire decade prior to the adoption of the deregulation law, Texans paid residential electricity rates that were 6.4 percent lower than the national average. In the decade since deregulation took effect, Texans paid 8.72 higher than the national average.
Some may note that in Texas there exists areas both with and without deregulation, and that the state’s higher-than-necessary average prices shouldn’t be blamed on deregulation, but rather on prices paid by those living outside deregulation. According to this argument, inflated prices paid by Texans living outside deregulation have skewed calculations for average prices overall.
But here again, the federal data shows this assertion to be incorrect. Data from the US EIA shows that Texans living in areas outside deregulation paid consistently less than the national average for residential service and consistently less than Texans subject to deregulation. This is true for every year in which data exists to make a comparison. You can check out the graph, above, showing the pricing data for the years 2002-2009.
A recent analysis by the Texas Coalition for Affordable Power shows that all these high prices don’t come without consequences. The total estimated cost to the Texas consumer economy from these long years of above-the-national-average electricity prices exceeds $15 billion.
Is a policy analyst consultant for TCAP, a coalition of political subdivisions in Texas that purchase electricity in the deregulated market for their own governmental use. Because energy costs are typically a significant budget item to our members, TCAP is consistently looking for ways to save our members money, through cost-saving contracts, energy efficiency or demand response programs.