Texas electric ratepayers could expect more protections against losing power during those days when the summertime heat reaches dangerously high levels, under legislation favored by CAPP, AARP and other consumer groups.

House Bill 3245, by state Rep. Burt Solomons, R-Carrollton, would limit the ability of electric companies to order non-payment disconnections against elderly residents and those with limited incomes during the summer months.

Another possible provision would extend such protections to all electric ratepayers — but only during those days in which the heat index reaches a predetermined level, plus the two following days. This provision remains under discussion.

The Texas AARP favors the use of both approaches, which the organization says will work well together. An analysis conducted by the group shows that if disconnections were prohibited when the heat index hits 103 degrees, then retail electric providers in Houston could still order non-payment disconnections for more than two thirds of the summer — or 69 days out of 90.

The AARP analysis is based upon a review of weather data from the last three summers. A chart prepared by AARP is shown above.

AARP policy analyst Tim Morstad said that adopting a new heat index rule would correct a loophole in current law. He said the problem is that while Senate Bill 7 bars companies from disconnecting customers during days in which the National Weather Service issues extreme heat advisories, the NWS does not enforce uniform rules for declaring such advisories.

For instance, some local weather service offices don’t issue heat advisories until the heat index gets to 111 degrees, others don’t issue them until it gets to 107 degrees – and one didn’t issue any at all until relatively recently, said Morstad.

“Existing hot weather protections are inadequate,” he said.

— R.A. Dyer

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