Updated: Texas Gov, Lawmakers Discuss How To "Reduce" Burden From Retail Electricity Bills
Vistra (TXU, etc.) Assures Residential Customers There Will Be No Near-Term Impact On Their Rates From Winter Event
Texas Governor Convenes Emergency Meeting To Address Spike In Texas Energy Bills
Texas PUC Expresses Expectation That REP Bills Reflect Accurate Zero Usage, Not Estimated Reads (Which TDU Systems Initially Show), May Require Delay Of REP Bills
Texas PUC Will Allow Additional REPs To Elect To Serve As Volunteer POLRs; Delays Any Customer POLR Transition To Give New Volunteer POLRs Time To Register
PUC Also Launches Investigation Of Grid Event
February 20, 2021 Email This Story Copyright 2010-21 EnergyChoiceMatters.com
Reporting by Paul Ring • firstname.lastname@example.org
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Update, 7:45 pm ET, 2/20
The Governor's office issued a readout of the meeting, which is published in full below. In particular, the Governor's office said, "The discussion with legislators focused on the need to quickly calculate the total cost of these energy bills and how the state can help reduce this burden. The call concluded with a discussion about addressing the immediate needs of Texans and how to ensure that Texans are protected long-term."
The Governor's office did not cite any specific solutions which may be under consideration
Readout provided by the Governor's office:
"Governor Abbott opened the call by discussing financial challenges many Texans will face as a result of the winter storm. He also gave an update on his conversations with the White House and potential federal relief that may be available to Texans. The Governor discussed the need to ensure that Texans are not left with unreasonable utility bills they cannot afford because of the temporary massive spike in the energy market. Senator West stressed the need for Republicans and Democrats to work together on this issue. The Senator noted that this group of legislators and state leaders will not allow politics to get in the way of solving this problem for Texans. Lt. Governor Patrick and Speaker Phelan discussed the need to swiftly develop a solution for Texans. The discussion with legislators focused on the need to quickly calculate the total cost of these energy bills and how the state can help reduce this burden. The call concluded with a discussion about addressing the immediate needs of Texans and how to ensure that Texans are protected long-term."
"We have a responsibility to protect Texans from spikes in their energy bills that are a result of the severe winter weather and power outages," said Governor Abbott. "Today’s meeting was productive, and I applaud Republican and Democrat members of the Legislature for putting aside partisan politics to work together on this challenge. We are moving quickly to alleviate this problem and will continue to work collaboratively throughout this week on solutions to help Texas families and ensure they do not get stuck with skyrocketing energy bills."
Separately, as part of announcing a $5 million commitment to help Texas communities and customers across its many retail brands, including TXU Energy and Ambit, Vistra issued a statement, "assuring residential customers across its retail brands that they will not see any near-term impact on their rates due to this winter weather event."
"While some may experience higher than normal bills due to higher usage during this cold weather period in February, we expect our customers will be insulated from storm-related rate increases," Vistra said
Curt Morgan, chief executive officer of Vistra, said, "There is a lot of concern and misinformation about electricity rates in Texas right now. While some Texas residents were, unfortunately, with retail electricity providers that offered variable wholesale rate plans with no price protection from the historic winter challenges, our residential customers on fixed and variable pricing plans were insulated from extreme wholesale power price swings. We do not put our customers at risk. Fortunately, the Texas governor, legislature, and regulators are actively discussing ways to help residents facing outrageous electricity bills as a result of those wholesale rate plans during the winter storm."
Concerning the $5 million in assistance announced by Vistra, the company is providing direct donations to social service agencies across the state along with bill-payment assistance for customers in need.
The $5 million donation will directly assist communities and individuals to meet their most pressing needs, including support for food banks and food pantries, critical needs, bill-payment assistance, and more.
Texas Governor Greg Abbott on Feb. 20 announced that he is convening an emergency meeting with Lieutenant Governor Dan Patrick, Speaker Dade Phelan and members of the Legislature to, "discuss the spike in energy bills affecting many Texans following the recent power outages throughout the state."
"It is unacceptable for Texans who suffered through days in the freezing cold without electricity or heat to now be hit with skyrocketing energy costs," said Governor Abbott. "To protect families, I am actively working with the Lieutenant Governor, the Speaker of the House and members of the Legislature to develop solutions to ensure that Texans are not on the hook for unreasonable spikes in their energy bills."
In addition to the Lieutenant Governor and the Speaker of the House, the following legislators will be in attendance:
Senator Jane Nelson – Chair of Senate Finance Committee
Senator Eddie Lucio Jr. – Vice Chair of Senate Finance Committee
Senator Kelly Hancock – Chair of Senate Business and Commerce Committee
Senator Robert Nichols – Vice Chair of Senate Business and Commerce Committee
Representative Greg Bonnen – Chair of House Appropriations Committee
Representative Chris Paddie – Chair of House State Affairs Committee
Representative Ana Hernandez – Vice Chair of House State Affairs Committee
Representative Craig Goldman – Chair of House Energy Resources Committee
Separately, in an emergency open meeting on the evening of Feb. 19, the Public Utility Commission of Texas discussed an issue related to customer bills issued by REPs, and expressed its intent that such bills accurately reflect the zero usage that customers on outage would have recorded. This may require REPs to delay the issuance of customer bills to allow TDUs to provide accurate meter reads.
Staff noted that, in the TDUs' system, when a zero reading is shown, the current system logic is that this represents a glitch, and an estimate of usage is used. However, due to the outages, the recent zero meter readings do reflect zero usage, and an estimate would be inappropriate and would expose customers to inaccurate higher bills
Texas Chairman DeAnn Walker said that the market needs to have some time to have better meter readings, and to know that bills are accurate. Walker said that REPs need to understand the situation facing customers and place customers first
The PUC did not adopt any formal order concerning this issue at this time, but set forth its expectation for REP behavior.
In a market notice on the evening of Feb. 19, Oncor stated it is resubmitting interval data estimations to ERCOT for Operating Day 2-15-2021 in time for Initial Settlement to more closely represent that customers were without power during extended periods of time.
Oncor in the notice states, "Oncor’s Meter Data Management System automatically estimates usage based on a customer’s historical consumption when we are unable to communicate with the meter. Once communication is restored, Oncor’s gap retrieval process is designed to retrieve the actual interval data from the meter, so Oncor can resubmit corrected interval data to ERCOT. Due to the length of time customers were without power as a result of the winter storms, as well as the rotating and controlled outages, along with the unprecedented number of customers who were affected, Oncor will not be able to complete the gap retrieval process in time for Initial Settlement. Therefore, Oncor is in the process of replacing estimated interval values with zero values to more closely represent that customers were without power during extended periods of time. Oncor should complete the resubmittal of the February 15, 2021 interval data to ERCOT today so it can be included in Initial Settlement."
Oncor plans to similarly resubmit interval data in time for Initial Settlement every day until Oncor’s customers are fully restored as a result of this week’s winter storm event.
Similarly, AEP Texas said in a market notice that, "Beginning on Monday, February 15th, AEP Texas activated the Catastrophic Estimation Process (CEP) for the entire AEP Texas service territory (Texas Central & North Divisions) for consumption data beginning on Sunday, February 14th in preparation for the extreme winter weather event."
"For any meters that lose communication due to the storm, CEP [its Catastrophic Estimation Process] will assume the meter is impacted by Outage and populate Zero-actual interval usage for all periods of non-communication," AEP Texas said
Due to a small percentage of customers who remain without power, AEP Texas will leave CEP active throughout the weekend of February 20th – 21st to actively reflect outage events, and will assess whether to de-activate CEP on Monday, February 22nd.
Separately the Public Utility Commission of Texas also, "launched an investigation into the factors that combined with the devastating winter weather to disrupt the flow of power to millions of Texas homes."
"The Commission also unanimously approved a series of steps designed to protect retail electric customers feeling the financial effects of the ERCOT grid event," the PUC said in a news release
"Chief among the Commission’s customer-focused actions was the decision to waive deadlines surrounding the Provider of Last Resort program in which retail electric providers volunteer to accept the customers of other REPs exiting the market," the PUC said in a news release
The volunteer POLRs are required to charge a, "market-based, month-to-month product," rather than the higher POLR rate which is based on wholesale clearing prices (the real time settlement point prices, which can be up to $9.00 per kilowatt hour) plus an adder. The approved changes include:
• Extending the registration deadline for REPs willing to serve as a volunteer POLR in order to expand the pool of available providers. REPs must file request to serve as a volunteer POLR (VREP) by 3:00 pm local time on Monday, February 22, 2021
• Delaying customer POLR transitions to volunteer providers until Wednesday, February 24, 2021 to allow the new POLR REPs time to register and prepare for the influx of new customers.
The delay will also serve to allow any potential voluntary acquisitions to complete prior to any POLR drop
Commissioners delegated authority to the agency’s Executive Director to execute the plan.
The changes will accommodate several requests previously reported by EnergyChoiceMatters.com, including TXU's request to increase the customers it is willing to serve as a volunteer POLR, and Reliant's request to serve as a non-volunteer POLR
"The immediate impact of this terrible weather was the loss of power for millions of Texas households and the financial aftershocks could be devastating," said Chairman DeAnn Walker. "We must act swiftly to discover not only how this crisis came together, but also take meaningful steps to protect electricity customers."
"This week’s weather and associated grid crisis were a nightmare for millions of Texas," said Thomas Gleeson, PUC Executive Director. "While the financial implications may drive some retail electric providers from the marketplace, we will work to ensure their customers can easily transition to a new provider. Customers transitioned to a volunteer provider should contact the new provider to ensure they are on a plan that suits their budget."
A copy of written orders on the various Commission actions were not immediately available
During an emergency open meeting, Walker discussed a non-exhaustive list of issues that would be included in the investigation. Walker stressed that the list was not exhaustive and additional issues may be included
Issues for the PUC's investigation
• Actions by ERCOT before and during the storm
• What occurred with outages, better way to do outages that are supposed to be rotating
• Failure of generation to be adequately winterized