Electric Deregulation Committee Searches for Solutions
The Electric Utility Restructuring Legislative Oversight Committee today continued its examination of the Texas electricity markets. Enron was the lead topic of today's meeting. The bankrupt company has been accused of distorting the California deregulated market for financial gain and committee members said we need to ensure that never happens in Texas.
Following that short discussion, representatives from the Electric Reliability Council of Texas (ERCOT) testified on the progress of deregulation in Texas. The main question is how consumer accounts are handled when they change electric providers. Committee members are concerned about how service charges will be handled. Representative Sylvester Turner told ERCOT representatives that he is seeing the same problems as were in evidence six months ago and that changes may need to be made in the process.
Other witnesses from Texas Utilities (TxU) said that despite concerns with the switching process, only five or six percent of its customers were having difficulties with getting timely bills. Co-chairman Steven Wolens questioned that number, saying that timely billing remains an issue for many ratepayers. The TxU representatives could only say that their goal was to have all bills caught up by the end of June. Reliant Energy representative Vicki Oswald gave similar answers, saying that 85 to 90 thousand of their customers have not received bills since January.
All witnesses assured the committee that the Texas electric market will not be manipulated for financial gain as has been charged in California. The committee spent the rest of the afternoon discussing the safeguards that will be in place to protect Texas customers.
The Electric Utility Restructuring Legislative Oversight Committee is Co-chaired by Senator Troy Fraser and Representative Steven Wolens. Members include Senators Teel Bivins, Frank Madla, Jane Nelson and John Whitmire, as well as Representatives Kim Brimer, David Counts, Debra Danburg and Sylvester Turner.
The Committee recessed subject to call of the chair, with its June meeting at a time and place to be announced at a later date.