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Texas PUC Directs REPs To Prioritize Service, Assistance To Hurricane Victims; Will Use Enforcement Discretion With Respect To Certain Other Requirements To Allow Such Focus

September 6, 2017

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

The executive director of the Public Utility Commission of Texas issued a memo stating that retail electric providers should prioritize customer assistance and dedicate their focus on customers displaced or impacted by Hurricane Harvey, and to facilitate such focus, and that the PUCT will therefore exercise its enforcement discretion with respect to certain other timelines and obligations otherwise required under the substantive rules for non-prioritized matters.

"In recognition of the widespread damage and flooding caused by Hurricane Harvey, the PUCT understands that Retail Electric Providers (REPs), particularly those with significant operations in the Houston and Corpus Christi areas, may experience resource constraints due to increased call volume and reduced staffing," the memo from the PUCT's executive director stated

"The PUCT believes REPs and utilities should prioritize customer assistance and dedicated focus on customers displaced or impacted by Hurricane Harvey. PUCT will utilize enforcement discretion where appropriate to facilitate this priority," the memo from the PUCT's executive director stated

Specifically, the memo from the PUCT's executive director discussed enforcement discretion with respect to the following:

• 16 TAC § 25.472(b) requires REPs to provide a requested residential billing history to an energy assistance agency by the end of the next business day. In light of the fact that REPs may see an increase in such requests, have in many cases suspended disconnection requests, the Order to Assist Implementation of the Governor's Proclamations Related to the Disaster Caused by Hurricane Harvey (Order) issued by the Commission on August 31, 2017 directs Retail Electric Providers to offer deferred payment plans to affected customers upon request, and REPs are required to notify customers of this benefit, the PUCT will utilize enforcement discretion to the extent that REPs use best efforts to provide these billing histories as soon as possible.

• 16 TAC § 25.479(c), requires REPs to include on the customer's bill whether the bill was issued based on estimated usage. "In light of ongoing efforts among Staff and stakeholders to discuss meter estimation protocols, the PUCT will utilize enforcement discretion where this requirement is infeasible or detracts from providing as accurate of [sic] bills as possible," the memo states

• 16 TAC § 25.485(d) and (e), requires a retail electric provider to respond to a complaint submitted by a customer or applicant, or an informal complaint at the Commission within 21 days after the complaint was received by the retail electric provider. The PUCT will utilize enforcement discretion where a retail electric provider provides notice to the Commission Customer Protection Division that they are experiencing resource constraints with respect to complaint processing, provided that the REP complies with the prohibitions on collection activities and disconnection during the pendency of the complaint.

• 16 TAC § 25.491(b) and (d) requires retail electric providers to produce records to the Commission within 15 days. The PUCT will utilize enforcement discretion where this requirement is infeasible unless the PUCT Staff indicates that the matter for which records are being requested is an emergency.

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