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Texas PUC Staff Prepare Order Extending Requirement For Retail Electric Providers To Offer Deferred Payment Plans To Disaster Victims

Executive Director Plans To Cease Most Broad-Based Rule Enforcement Discretion That Had Been Implemented Post-Harvey


September 28, 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 has prepared, for the PUCT's consideration, a draft order which would extend the requirement for Retail Electric Providers (REPs) to offer deferred payment plans to customers upon request in areas covered by Governor Abbott's disaster declarations as contemplated by P.U.C. Subst. R. 25.480(j)(1)(B)

Currently, the directive for REPs to offer such deferred payment plans expires on September 29, 2017.

The executive director reported that Commission Staff has continued to meet periodically with REPs, the affected utilities, and consumer groups to discuss the progress of recovery and determine if additional rule suspension requests or enforcement discretion is warranted. According to a memo from the executive director, TEAM, TXU Energy, and Reliant Energy believe that the provision of P.U.C. Subst. R. 25.480(j)(1)(B) requiring REPs to offer deferred payment plans should be extended.

The draft order submitted for the PUCT's consideration would extend the requirement for REPs to offer deferred payment plans to such customers until October 12, 2017, if the Commission agrees that such extension is an appropriate course of action.

The memo from the executive director also states that Staff will cease its broad-base enforcement discretion that had been adopted in the wake of Hurricane Harvey so that efforts could be focused on restoration and customer service

"Given that restoration efforts are complete for all customers who can take power, Staff does not believe that broad based enforcement discretion, rule suspensions, or emergency rules are necessary at this time. The Commission's call center continues to receive a small number of calls related to Harvey, and we believe the inquiry/informal complaint process is currently working effectively to identify and resolve customer issues on a case-by-case basis," the executive director said

"Following the August 31, 2017 Open Meeting, I also issued a series of memoranda detailing certain provisions of Commission rules that would be subject to enforcement discretion through September 29, 2017. Unless otherwise directed by the Commission, it is my intention to extend enforcement discretion for rules related to meter readings and estimation where advanced metering systems are not communicating or meters are otherwise damaged or inaccessible, with the caveat that the Commission made it clear in its Order that estimation should only be done in these circumstances and should account for likely reductions in usage. While all other broad based enforcement discretion will expire on September 29, Commission Staff will resume its normal practice of exercising that discretion where appropriate to enable continued restoration efforts or to avoid absurd results," the executive director said

See prior story for background on the rules which had been subject to such enforcement discretion

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