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Updated: Texas Requires Retail Electric Providers To Offer Deferred Payment Plans To Disaster Victims

(Earlier) Draft Texas PUC Order Would Require Retail Electric Providers To Offer Deferred Payment Plans To Disaster Victims

Addresses Billing Of Non-Energized Premises, Expedited Move-Ins/Outs

CenterPoint TDU Implements Process For REPs To Request Remote Disconnection


August 30, 2017

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Copyright 2010-17 EnergyChoiceMatters.com
Reporting by Paul Ring • ring@energychoicematters.com

Update: 8/31, 11am et:

The PUC adopted the draft order as filed and discussed below.

Accordingly, the Commission directed retail electric providers to offer deferred payment plans to customers, upon request, in an area covered by a disaster declaration

The PUCT also adopted the other provisions of the draft order, as discussed below, without modification

Earlier:

A draft order to be considered by the Public Utility Commission of Texas at today's open meeting would require retail electric providers to offer deferred payment plans to customers, upon request, in an area covered by a disaster declaration

P.U.C. Subst. R. 25.480(j)(1)(B) provides that, as directed by the commission, during a state of disaster declared by the governor pursuant to Texas Government Code §418.014, a REP shall offer a deferred payment plan to customers, upon request, in the area covered by the declaration.

"The Commission so directs Retail Electric Providers to do so for customers served in the counties covered by the disaster proclamation until September 29, 2017," the draft would provide

Normally, outside of weather events, the substantive rules only mandate that REPs offer deferred payment plans to certain customers, for bills in certain months, with no obligation for the REP to offer such plan in certain circumstances (such as if the customer has been disconnected during the preceding 12 months)

The draft order would also provide that retail electric providers, "should seek to identify persons who are eligible for the benefits of rule suspensions by the Governor, as applicable. Retail electric providers in the Electric Reliability Council of Texas (ERCOT) or electric utilities outside of ERCOT are not precluded from making reasonable inquiry as to whether a person is entitled to the benefits of any rule suspensions."

Under the draft order, "Regulated entities must notify affected persons that rules have been suspended. All entities subject to the rules suspended by the Office of the Governor in accordance with the Governor's disaster proclamations shall inform all persons who have evacuated from affected areas as a result of Hurricane Harvey who apply for electric, telecommunications, potable water, or sewer service of the suspension of these rules, to the extent they may be relevant to the customer, at the time such persons apply for electric, telecommunications, potable water, or sewer service."

The draft provides that, "The Commission notes that many of those persons who have evacuated may have limited means of identifying themselves as having been displaced from their homes due to Hurricane Harvey. A person who is adversely affected by Hurricane Harvey is a person who resides in a county declared by the Governor to be a disaster county and demonstrates that the person has been affected by, or evacuated as a result of, Hurricane Harvey, based on evidence of residency in the affected area and documentation of the person's status as a claimant of benefits offered by the Federal Emergency Management Agency, the American Red Cross or other recognized charitable organization, or a state or local jurisdiction or agency or any other evidence of hurricane-related destruction of a person's residence."

The draft would require that utilities shall use "best efforts" to account for reduced consumption in estimating bills.

"Since the last major hurricane to impact Texas, many Texas electric utilities and transmission and distribution utilities have ubiquitously deployed advanced metering infrastructure and these systems should significantly reduce the need for utilities to estimate usage data compared to past disasters, to the extent they are available. These utilities should utilize these systems where possible to record and report accurate metering information. Where advanced meters systems are damaged or cannot transmit data, or estimating data will facilitate restoration efforts electric utilities and transmission and distribution utilities are ordered to use their best efforts when estimating energy consumption for billing purposes to take into account the reductions in consumption that have resulted from the disruption in delivery of electricity that are a consequence of the damage caused by the hurricane, from customers evacuation and from the damage to the premises where customers took service," the draft states

"These utilities are also ordered to use their best efforts, without delaying restoration of service, to identify premises that are not capable of receiving electric service, to discontinue billing these premises for electric delivery service, without assessing a disconnection charge, and to take appropriate steps to notify ERCOT that the premises should not be included in the wholesale settlement. For example, it may be appropriate in areas with a substantial amount of damage for utilities to report a zero usage estimate until such time as a physical inspection can be performed. In recognition of the fact that issues around utility meter reading and billing may be utility-specific, the Commission requests that Staff, Retail Electric Providers, and utilities work collaboratively on these issues, and report at the September 28th Open Meeting. ERCOT is ordered to take reasonable and necessary steps, as appropriate, to ensure that load reductions are reflected in wholesale settlement as soon as possible," the draft provides

Furthermore, the draft provides, "Market participants shall use best efforts to expedite move-ins and move-outs. As Texans return to their properties or establish service in new locations, market participants in ERCOT will use their best efforts to develop a procedure to expedite the processing of move-ins and move-outs in the AEP Texas, CenterPoint Energy Houston Electric, Texas-New Mexico Power Company, and Oncor Electric Delivery Company service areas."

The draft was filed in Docket No. 47552

Separately, CenterPoint Energy Houston Electric has established a process for customers requesting remote disconnections

In a market notice, CenterPoint Energy Houston Electric stated, "We have instituted a VOLUNTARY process for CRs [competitive retailers] to follow if customers call their CR and request to be disconnected remotely. We are asking that CRs use this process if and when the CR receives a call from a customer requesting their service be disconnected remotely due to flooding."

"If customers call CNP to request a remote disconnection, CNP will complete the request if able, and will send a 650_04 DC001 transaction to the CR of record," CenterPoint Energy Houston Electric stated

CenterPoint Energy Houston Electric directed REPs to its website for more info on the process (click here)

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