Texas PUC Adopts Electricity Relief Program Which Reimburses Retail Electric Providers, At Standard Rate, For Unpaid Bills Due To Disconnect Moratorium During COVID-19 Emergency
Modifications Made To Funding Rate, Other Details
Exception To Late Payment Rule Adopted
March 26, 2020 Email This Story Copyright 2010-20 EnergyChoiceMatters.com
Reporting by Paul Ring • firstname.lastname@example.org
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Update #2, 2:15 p.m.
The written order provides further clarity on several issues. In terms of part of the relief program being in place initially for one month, the one-month review is specifically related to the funding mechanism.
Specifically, the written order states, "the charge approved
in this Order will be reviewed in one month from the date of this Order, unless it is modified or
extended by further Commission action before then."
As for the broader relief program itself, the written order provides that it shall be in place for six months, unless extended by the PUC
High-level terms of the electricity relief program adopted in the order are as follows:
• REPs will cease submitting disconnection for non-payment orders for residential customers identified as eligible for the COVID-19 Electricity Relief Program (eligibility discussed below).
• The fund will reimburse REPs with energy
charges related to eligible residential customers with an unpaid, past due electric bill
subject to a disconnection for non-payment notice. Disbursements to REPs will be calculated using a
standardized energy charge based on an average energy cost of $0.04 per kWh.
• REPs will reflect reimbursement sought through the COVID-19 Electricity Relief Program on the affected customer's account and cease to seek continued collection where funds are received from the program during the pendency of the program. REPs are allowed to recover the remaining balances from the eligible residential customer after the cessation of the program
• TDUs will cease charging REPs for delivery charges, except securitization-related charges, related to customers identified as eligible for the COVID-19 Electricity Relief Program
• A residential customer who demonstrates eligibility for the COVID-19 Electricity Relief Program is deemed as having established satisfactory credit for the purpose of 16 TAC § 25.478(a)
• Eligible customers for the program are residential customers who cannot pay their electric bill due to unemployment or low-income
from the effects of the COVID-19 disaster. Such customers must contact the LILA [Low-Income List Administrator], and the program establishes a matching program under which REPs will be provided with a list of eligible customers
The Public Utility Commission of Texas today voted to adopt an Electricity Relief Program that will reimburse retail electric providers for energy charges associated with providing continuity of service to residential customers during a disconnection moratorium during the COVID-19 Emergency
The PUC voted to adopt the mechanism proposed by Chairman DeAnn Walker with certain changes
A written order was not immediately available. The description below is based on discussion at the open meeting; however, a written order will provide more specific language with respect to the changes
Of note, is that the funding mechanism for the relief fund will be a TDU rider of 33 cents per MWh, rather than the originally proposed 65 cents per MWh
Concerning the original language that REPs would cease being charged by TDUs for delivery charges for affected customers, the revised mechanism clarifies that REPs will continue to be charged by the TDUs for securitization-related charges.
Additionally, a clarification was made concerning the ability of REPs to recover costs not reimbursed by the relief program. REPs shall cease collection of such costs during the term of the program, but may seek collection of such costs after the relief program is terminated. As noted, reimbursement under the relief program is limited to energy costs at a rate of 4 cents per kWh
Furthermore, the order will establish that the funding mechanism for the relief program is subject to an initial review one month after the order. The relief program will be in place for six months, subject to any future extension
Walker stressed at the open meeting that the mechanism as initially designed has been adopted to put something in place to provide relief sooner. Walker noted that long-term discussions, particularly with respect to funding, continue, and Walker did not want to stop such discussions
Other than several additional clarifications, which don't impact the design of the mechanism, the funding mechanism, or the reimbursement rate, the adopted program mirrors the previously reported original proposal, as described in our earlier story (click here for details of the program), subject to the changes described above.
At a high level, the program will reimburse REPs for affected customers at a rate of $0.04 per kWh. REPs will cease being charged most delivery charges for affected customers, but REPs will continue to be charged securitization-related charges
This story will be updated when a written order is issued. Check back for updates (you may need to refresh the page)
The PUC also adopted an order granting an exception to 16 TAC § 25.480(c), which relates to assessment of late fees on customers for delinquent bills.
The Commission further issued an order, as provided by 16 Texas Administrative Code (TAC) §§ 25.480(j)(1)(B) and 25.498(i)(1)(B), directing retail electric providers to offer a deferred payment plan to customers, upon request.