The Texas Public Utility Commission this week revoked Proton’s license and ordered the transfer of all of its customers to default service, an action that effectively puts an end to the company in Texas. The PUC earlier found that Proton had repeatedly violated market rules, and then failed to meet an agreed-upon regulatory deadline to find a buyer for its business.
An attorney for the Fort Worth-based electric provider appeared Thursday before the PUC to plead for more time. The attorney conceded that the company had failed to meet the terms of an enforcement agreement, but said it would make a good faith effort to comply if just given a little more time.
The Commission was having none of it. It voted 3-0 to revoke the company’s certificate to operate in Texas.
“There are more violations against this company than this provider has customers — and that’s telling,” said Commissioner Brandy Marty. “There is a lack of good faith going on. … If we gave them more time, it would not be well used. We have not seen any productive use of the time they’ve already had.”
Proton was accused by PUC staff back in September of everything from marketing problems to breaking rules involving billing and disconnections — more than 1,000 violations in all. The tiny electric company eventually reached a legal settlement with the PUC that required it to pay $400,000 and to change ownership by July 1.
A potential buyer for the company withdrew an acquisition bid earlier this month after staff alleged that the proposed acquisition would not be a bona fide arms-length transaction.
Proton’s approximately 640 customers will now be transferred to relatively high-cost default service. Customers will receive mail and email notifications and automated phone calls explaining the transfer. The transfer process should be complete by Aug. 26th, according to the PUC.
Customers on default service have the right to immediately transfer to a lower cost provider, and the PUC encourages erstwhile Proton customers to shop for better rates.
The default service rate in the area around Dallas and Fort Worth costs 14.2 cents per kilowatt hour. That’s more than 40 percent higher than typical Proton rates of approximately 10 cents, according to testimony Thursday at the Commission.