Overview of CSSB 1976 by Whitmire
With the expiration of the System Benefit Fund, the statutory basis for future determination of eligibility and treatment of low-income electric customers is unclear.
- The System Benefit Fund was created in 1999 as part of the advent of electric competition in Texas. The program included electric bill discount to low-income Texans, customer education programs and other benefits to transition to competition.
- Under PURA 39.903, low-income customers are identified using information from the Health and Human Services Commission (HHSC), which is provided to the Public Utility Commission of Texas (PUC), to create a list of low-income electric customers. That section will expire on August 31, 2017.
CSSB 1976 will reinstate the ability for the HHSC to coordinate with the PUC to populate a list of customers that meet the eligibility criteria, provided one or more retail electric provider (REP) requests that the list be developed by July 31 of the previous fiscal year.
- The REP or REPs that voluntarily request the list would agree to reimburse the PUC for the cost of developing the list.
CSSB 1976 will allow REPs to continue to provide benefits to low-income customers
Without this bill, there will be no fair or consistent method to identify low-income electric customers to whom REPs could offer services that specifically benefit low-income Texans on a competitive basis.
The bill would simply allow the PUC to continue to coordinate with DHHS to have the same list of customers they had in the past, so REPs can offer services that are tailored to specific customer needs.
As substituted, CSSB 1976 will have no fiscal impact to the state.
Overview of SB 736 by Hancock
- The Texas General Land Office (GLO) sells natural gas and electricity on the competitive market to public entities through its State Power Program.
- The program was authorized in 1999, as part of Senate Bill 7, which created the competitive retail electric market in ERCOT.
- The State Power Program provides electricity to its customers through a third-party retail electric provider (REP).
- SB 736 would eliminate the electricity sales portion of the State Power Program currently granted under Section 35.102 of the Utilities Code. GLO would continue to sell natural gas to public entities.
SB 736 Eliminates the Distortion of Direct Government Involvement in the Competitive Electric Market
- SB 736 opens the process for all REPs to offer the competitive bids in the retail electric market.
- Texas’ competitive electric market opened in 2002, and now has dozens of marketers that serve public entities, ensuring the free market brings competitive bids to these entities.
- It assures taxpayer dollars are expended efficiently, thanks to the strength of Texas’ competitive electric market.
“Staffers Ask” is an occasional feature where we attempt to answer burning questions from the Capitol on electricity issues. Got a question? Email firstname.lastname@example.org
The business of producing, delivering and selling electricity is extraordinarily complex, with constant engineering and economic considerations that inform decisions by market participants.
As with any technical industry, ours is prone to an alphabet soup of acronyms and abbreviations. AECT has developed a glossary to help when learning about the issues that face electric businesses.
Download the glossary here, or scroll below to view it online.
For even more detail, visit ERCOT’s glossary here.
This chart, comparing offers available in the competitive market to the last regulated price, is one of AECT’s most viewed and used sets of data. We’ve published some version of it periodically since 2007.
We created this chart to create a relatively direct comparison between what customers had available just before the market opened in January 2002, and what price they can find on the market today. That’s why we averaged all the offers available on Power to Choose where you can get a locked-in, all-in rate for a full year, since that’s similar in concept to a regulated rate. The lowest available offer of that type is shown, along with month-to-month variable offers, to provide a sense of what else is available.
More Than Electricity Prices
The competitive market has brought significant innovation in retail products. Today, customers can choose plans selling 100% renewable generation, time-of-use prices that fit their lifestyles, rewards and rebate-based products and many others. The PUC is studying ways to improve Power to Choose, but the site does allow you to narrow down your choices, to help you find the right retail electric provider (REP) and plan.
Questions to Consider When Choosing Electric Service
For customers who haven’t shopped for electricity in a while, or for those who are new to a competitive area of Texas, here’s a useful checklist of questions to ask. Also, don’t hesitate to contact your current REP to see if there’s a product available that better fits your needs.
- Do you want your electricity to be from renewable resources?
- Do you want a fixed or variable price?
- How long will the contract be, and is there a cancellation fee?
- Will there be a deposit? How much?
- How long has the REP been operating?
- How is the REP’s customer service?
- Does the REP offer sign-up incentives or rewards programs?
- Does the REP offer information or tools to help you manage your electricity use?
- Does the REP offer additional programs or discounts that you might be eligible for?
- Is the REP involved in your community?