Electricity complaints filed with regulators have dropped to a new post-electric deregulation low, according to a new report by the Texas Coalition for Affordable Power.
All told, Texans during the 2015 fiscal year filed 6,973 electricity-related complaints or inquires with the Texas Public Utility Commission. The previous low during the state’s electric deregulation era came in FY 2013, when the tally stood at 7,129. The state deregulated most of its retail electricity market in 2002.
But despite the encouraging numbers, complaints remain more numerous today than they were prior to retail electric deregulation. Also less encouraging is the dramatic uptick in complaints filed in FY 2015 against a single electric company — Dallas-based Sharyland Utilities.
These findings and more are part of the latest Snapshot Report from the Texas Coalition for Affordable Power, which is a coalition of cities that have banded together to purchase power for their own governmental use. The coalition, as part of its mission, also promotes affordable energy policies.
The new Snapshot Report suggests that Texans may be feeling more comfortable with the state’s deregulated market, said TCAP executive director Jay Doegey.
“Complaints have come down since the early years of electric deregulation — and that’s good news,” said Mr. Doegey. “This report shows that Texans are becoming more comfortable with their electricity providers. It also follows generally improving trends we’ve seen relating to power prices. However, challenges remain.”
For its analysis, TCAP reviewed 18 years of complaint data at the PUC, the state agency that oversees the Texas electricity market. TCAP considers both complaints and inquires in order to gauge general consumer sentiment and also to maintain a uniform methodology across the study period.
The analysis reveals that Texans filed 2 percent fewer electricity-related complaints and inquiries during FY 2015 than they filed in FY 2013, which was the previous low-water mark under the retail electric deregulation law. The highest number came during the second year of deregulation, in FY 2003, when Texans filed 17,250.
This year’s analysis also reaffirms previous findings that there were fewer filed complaints prior to retail electric deregulation. Although population growth and other factors can explain some of that disparity, it’s unlikely that those factors alone can account completely for the greater number of complaints under deregulation — particularly the relatively high number of complaints registered during the early years of the deregulated market.
The report likewise shows more than nine times the number of complaints and inquiries against Sharyland Utilities in FY 2015 as were registered against the Dallas-based company in FY 2014. Sharyland serves retail customers in West Texas. The company is owned by the same party seeking to take control of Oncor Electric utility as Oncor’s parent, Energy Future Holdings, emerges from bankruptcy.
Texans can find complaint data for individual companies at the state’s electricity shopping website, powertochoose.org. TCAP recommends that consumers always check powertochoose.org when shopping for electricity.
Electricity customers wishing to file complaints can do so through the PUC’s Office of Customer Protection, which can be reached at 1-888-782-8477, by email at firstname.lastname@example.org, or online at http://puc.state.tx.us/consumer/complaint/Complaint.aspx. When appropriate, the PUC will investigate such complaints, and may sanction companies if a rule violation is found.
TCAP is a coalition of more than 165 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.