The 84th session of the Texas Legislature is in full swing, with scores of bills already filed that could end up helping or harming Texas energy consumers. Just below we’ve listed a few that are worth watching.
- House Bill 224, by state Rep. Ryan Guillen, and House Bill 1106, by state Rep Larry Phillips, both would rename the Texas Railroad Commission. This is a good idea, given that the Texas Railroad Commission has nothing to do with railroads. Instead, the agency oversees what we all pay for gas utility service.
- House Bill 489, by state Rep. Rafael Anchia, requires retail electric providers that offer smart thermostat service to better inform customers about the details of that service. It’s been referred to the House Committee on State Affairs.
- House Bill 575, by state Rep. Greg Bonnen, will ensure that electric customers receive advance notice before their fixed-rate deals expire. Under HB 575, the notice must be sent between 30 and 60 days from the date of expiration, and it must detail fees that would be incurred if the customer opts out early from the fixed-rate deal. This bill has been referred to the House Committee on State Affairs.
- House Bill 911, by state Rep. Kenneth Sheets, would transform what is currently a three-member Public Utility Commission into a five-member commission. The PUC is the agency that oversees the state’s electricity market.
- House Bill 962, by state Rep. Matt Krause, would prohibit the creation of a system to subsidize big generation companies with what are known as “capacity payments.” Generation companies have lobbied hard over the last several years for capacity payments, but consumer groups (including the Texas Coalition for Affordable Power) oppose them.
- House Bill 1101, by state Rep. Sylvester Turner, will extend the life of the System Benefit Fund that helps low-income Texans pay their electricity bills. There will remain approximately $200 million left in the System Benefit Fund at the end of the current budget cycle, and unless the legislature takes action that money will end up getting spent for an unrelated purpose. TCAP supports House Bill 1101.
- House Bill 1535, by state Rep. John Frullo, allows electric utilities located outside the state’s main power grid to more easily hike their rates. HB 1535 spells out various methods for this, including the allowance of accelerated hikes that correspond with transmission system investments. Although House Bill 1535 only applies to electric generation utilities outside the Electric Reliability Council of Texas, the legislation could have wider implications if it portends changes that utilities eventually may pursue statewide.
- Senate Bill 365, by state Sen. Kevin Eltife, applies to the Southwestern Electric Power Company, which is located around Texarkana and Longview and outside of ERCOT. Under this legislation, SWEPCO would have an easier time receiving ratepayer reimbursements for expenditures it incurs when it complies with federal environmental rules.
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.