Group Of Texas Retail Providers Modify Proposal For Changes When Disconnection Moratorium Triggered
July 9, 2021 Email This Story Copyright 2010-21 EnergyChoiceMatters.com
Reporting by Paul Ring • firstname.lastname@example.org
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The Coalition of Competitive Retail Electric Providers (hereafter "Petitioners" or "CCR") have filed modified language for their petition requesting that the Texas PUC amend PUC Subst. R. §§25.29 and 25.483 concerning disconnection moratorium triggers
As first reported by EnergyChoiceMatters.com, the Petitioners have proposed new rule language providing that retail electric providers shall not authorize a
disconnection for nonpayment of electric service for any customer in a county in which a
state of disaster occurs
Under the original proposal, the term state of disaster was proposed to mean, "a day when a state of disaster is declared by the Governor of the State of Texas, or when the duration of such disaster has occurred on any one of the preceding two calendar days in a county."
The revised proposal modifies the proposed definition for the term state of disaster to mean, "a day during which a commission order prohibiting disconnection pursuant to a state of disaster declared by the Governor of the State of Texas for a county is in effect."
The latest proposal requires a "commission order" for any disaster-linked disconnection moratorium, rather than such a moratorium being automatically triggered by a declared state of disaster without any PUC action
The revised proposal continues to place an automatic sunset on any disaster-linked DNP moratorium, though the moratorium may be extended by specific PUC action
The revised proposal states, "A disconnection moratorium for a state of disaster shall not last longer than 5 calendar days unless specifically continued for up to an additional 5 calendar days by written Commission order issued following notice and opportunity for interested persons to comment. The Commission may further continue such disconnection moratorium for subsequent periods of up to 5 calendar days by this process. The Commission shall specifically consider whether the disaster impacts the generation, distribution, or sale of electricity in deciding whether to issue or continue an order prohibiting disconnection pursuant to a state of disaster declared by the Governor of the State of Texas."
Given that the PUC recently ended the DNP moratorium adopted after the winter weather event, the Petitioners said that emergency adoption of the changes was no longer needed, but Petitioners still request that the Commission publish a proposed rule pursuant to add declarations of disaster unrelated to extreme temperatures to the instances where disconnections would be prohibited and to provide a timeline for expiration of disconnection moratorium, per the proposed language above
The Alliance for Retail Markets (ARM) and the Texas Energy Association for Marketers (TEAM) said in joint comments that, "ARM and TEAM respectfully recommend that the Commission deny the petition and not initiate a rulemaking in response to CCR’s petition; however ARM and TEAM request that the Commission include a definitive start and end date, with limited duration, for any future DNP moratorium to promote market certainty."
"In considering this matter, it is important to remember that the Commission’s existing DNP rules were adopted after significant deliberation and with many safeguards in place, including strict notice requirements and prompt reconnection under the delineated conditions. In addition, the existing rules prohibit disconnections in certain freezing weather conditions. Additional protections include the prohibition of disconnection on the day a heat advisory is in place for a county, as well as the two following days, under the specified conditions in 16 TAC § 25.483(j). These rules maintain a careful balance to safeguard customer protections while ensuring that REPs maintain the financial solvency necessary to provide the liquidity that the entire electric market relies on. For these reasons, the Commission’s rules provide adequate safeguards for most market conditions, and exceptions should only be necessary in limited circumstances," ARM and TEAM said
"Notably, on June 15 the Commission issued an order unwinding the DNP moratorium from the February 21 Order, allowing the retail market to return towards normal operations and addressing the primary motivators of CCR’s petition. Further, as a practical matter the Commission is presently proceeding with a number of rulemakings necessary to implement changes from the legislative session. Given the limited resources available to accomplish the amount of work required of those rulemakings, and that the requested rule amendments are not necessary for the reasons stated above, the Commission need not and should not open another rulemaking to address CCR’s petition," ARM and TEAM said
The Joint TDUs filed comments on the petition.
The TDUs stated, "[T]he rule should include provisions for the Commission to give notice to affected
utilities, retail electric providers, and the general public of the emergency declaration that warrants
implementation of a moratorium on disconnections of service. Unlike the automated systems Joint
TDUs have in place with respect to obtaining National Weather Service advisories for extreme
weather, there is no automated process to obtain and apply governmental disaster proclamations
to customer operations. More importantly, states of disaster are declared for reasons that may not
affect the normal market processes of customer billing, payment, and possible disconnection for
non-payment. The time covered by a disaster declaration may also extend beyond the time period
the Commission deems it necessary to suspend disconnections for non-payment. Thus, the
Commission (or its designee, such as the Executive Director) should issue a notice of any state of
disaster that the Commission believes should trigger a moratorium on disconnections."
The TDUs further said, "[T]he Commission’s notice should also specify the dates on which the moratorium
on disconnections will begin and end. This will ensure the industry and the general public have a
clear understanding as to how long the moratorium will last. If appropriate, the Commission can
extend the moratorium by providing subsequent notices."
The TDUs further said, "[A] moratorium may not be necessary for the entire state, particularly in the case of
local weather evens [sic] such as hurricanes or tornadoes. The Commission’s notice should clearly
specify the counties to which the moratorium will apply. Once again, this will allow the industry
and the general public to know the exact geographical bounds of the moratorium, and who will be
affected. And, again, the boundaries of the moratorium on disconnections can be modified by
further notices issued by the Commission, either on its own review or in response to further disaster
declarations made by the governor."