Public Utility Commission of Texas Talks Straight
The PUCT today explained why deregulation may not be working as planned in some areas of the state of Texas. There is not a whole lot of data prior to Texas deregulating the electric rates in 2002 but what information we do have has remained inconclusive at this point. Right after deregulation we saw several large electric monopolies become deregulated. “Deregulated” just means that the state of Texas has unbundled the pole and wires charges from the “retail energy rate”. The reason they unbundled the rate is because the pole and wires company is an altogether different operation from the energy trading desk that buys energy in the form of natural gas and other commodities and resells it as electricity to commercial and residential customers. Once the rate was unbundled any new Texas electric company that wanted to could open up business and sell the retail energy to customers while the same pole and wires company you have always used passes through the pole charges onto the electric bill with no markup. If you have picked an alternate electric provider since deregulation you can actually still see the pole and wires company number on the bill in case of an electric outage. The number on the bill helps to confirm to Texas energy customers that they still deal with the company they always have when it comes to the electric service infrastructure and transmission.
An Example Of A Deregulated Electric Utility
TXU Electric Company was deregulated back in 2002 and as you may or may not know they kept their same name when they became an independent Texas electric provider. That means that their pole and wires company was called TXU and their retail energy company was called TXU even though they legally could not be affiliated with the pole and wire division. They were basically two altogether separate companies because legally there could be coercion if they were still affiliated. Imagine if you switched to a different retail electric provider and “TXU” the pole and wires company decided they would get you back by raising your TDSP charges on your bill which covers the pole, wires and meter maintenance? This would be a good way to keep people from leaving TXU since pole and wires charges can sometimes make up 50% or more of your Texas electric bill.
TXU Electric Delivery Had To Rebrand
What ended up happening because of continuous fear and confusion, because the name was so similar to the old monopoly, was a complete rebrand of the pole and wires part of the company. TXU Electric Delivery had to rename themselves “Oncor Electric Delivery” in order for people to distinguish between TXU (The Retail Electric Provider) and TXU (The Pole and Wires Company or TDSP Company, now called Oncor). Even after reading this lengthy explanation many people will still have no idea that TXU just sells the electricity (a paper transaction bought and sold on commodity markets and hedged) and no longer maintains the poles, lines and meters. Even as of today you will still see TXU Electric Delivery as a brand name for Oncor Electric Delivery even though they are no longer called that. Oncor even owns the name “TXU Electric Delivery” although imagine if Microsoft found a company using their brand name even if not in the same line of work? Microsoft would sue their pants off and the company would immediately need to cease and desist all use of their brand name. This is not the case with Oncor as they use Oncor and TXU interchangeably which helps in the confusion process and brings in multiple electricity customers back to TXU Energy Retail Electricity. It would appear that Oncor using TXU as a part of their brand name is an effort to help TXU Energy Retail gather new and existing customers even though they are no longer the same company. Many people call TXU Energy to have their electricity turned on thinking they are calling the poles and wires company. TXU Energy signs the new customers up left and right because of this confusion process and there does not appear to be any end in site. The rate is usually not very competitive in comparison to other retail electric providers in Texas and neither does it need be considering that these customers are signing up on a brand they believe to be their only choice in “turning on new electric service”.
Oncor Maintains The Poles, Wires and Meters
So what have we learned? Oncor reads your meter and maintains the electric infrastructure in North Texas. They are the ones who pass through your TDSP charges on a 1 to 1 basis on your retail electric bill. The reason they are called pass through charges is because most retail electric providers like, TXU Energy, Gexa, Startex, Spark, Champion, Bounce Energy and multiple others do not markup the TDSP charges from Oncor but pass them through on a 1 to 1 basis. There are a few Texas electric providers who do in fact markup the TDSP charges while offering a competitive retail electric rate. What ends up happening is you believe that Oncor has past through those charges with no additional markup on your bill, which is the only company who can since they own the electric infrastructure in North Texas. You receive a competitive retail electric rate with no indication, except in fine print in the energy contract, that the TDSP charges have been marked up by the retail electric provider (not Oncor). This allows a few retail electric providers to come away with extra profit margin until the PUCT of Texas makes this an illegal deceptive trade practice. Until the PUCT does something about it some electric providers will continue to do this until bad publicity catches up with them.
No Historical Data On TXU Energy Electric Rates Prior To 2002
There is not a lot of data showing what the last previous 2 years prior to deregulation showed for what electric rates were at for TXU Energy. This information would be useful in understanding what the Texas retail electric rates have done before and after with TXU since deregulation began in 2002. What we would need is the electric usage data file going back before 2002 for a particular company or residence. This can be obtained from Oncor Electric Delivery in the Dallas and East Texas area and from Centerpoint Energy in the Houston area. We would then need some corresponding electric bills prior to deregulation. Any electric bills before 2002 will prove helpful. We can then compile the data and give some estimates of what electric rates have done before and after Texas deregulation in regards to TXU Energy. We would also take into account what natural gas prices have done since deregulation began. There was a time right after deregulation when natural gas spiked up to some historical highs which caused electric rates to drastically rise. This rate spike made it look like deregulation was having the opposite effect that the state of Texas was expecting.
If you have old electric bills and usage data please feel free to fax it to 1-903-484-9222 and we can use it in our analysis. We appreciate your help in this matter.
Texas Deregulation Debate, What Is the Current Controversy?
The debate right now is whether or not Texas deregulation actually caused electric rates to go up instead of down. Many people believe that NOT breaking up the monopolies would have been a better choice. Their reasons have to do with several factors.
One reason has to do with the natural gas spike back in the beginning of 2002. Natural gas has a 90% correlation with electric rates in Texas. Because natural gas spiked so did Texas electric rates and this was at the same time Texas unveiled deregulation. Timing was very bad in this case in giving the Texas public the perception that deregulation works to reduce electric rates.
The second popular reason is that city municipalities and coops near deregulated towns often pay a few cents kWh less for their electricity then the deregulated city next door. These city owned municipalities and coops give the public the perception that deregulation has done nothing but raise rates. The factor that people are not recognizing is that the prior monopoly retail electric providers like TXU, First Choice Power, Entergy, WTU, Reliant, and CPL may have had abnormally higher electric rates then some of the smaller city owned coops and municipalities. The only way to know for sure if this is the case is to provide historical electric usage data and historical electric bills prior to 2002 from one of these retail electric monopolies also known as Texas Affiliate electric providers. You can send us your historical bills and usage data and we would be glad to investigate.
Please call us at 1-800-971-4020
Another point to consider in regards to factor 2 is that not all city owned municipalities and coops have cheaper electric rates then the deregulated Texas electric providers. Take for instance the city of Garland Texas. The city of Garland has many times had higher electric rates in comparison to competitive Texas electric companies like Champion Energy or Startex Power. There are several other municipalities that have historically had much cheaper electric rates then the competitive Texas electric providers in the deregulated counties of the state. One such provider is in the cities of Longview and Marshall Texas. SWEPCO also known as AEP is not deregulated in these areas and is a few cents cheaper then cities just outside of it like Tyler Texas. The only explanation as to why they are able to provide a cheaper electric rate would be related to less advertising dollars spent at competing against multiple other electric companies. Texas has made the record books at being the most competitive electricity market in the world and AEP SWEPCO has avoided the issue of needing to compete with other providers by having absolutely no competition in this area of Texas. They also have the added pressure of needing to keep the rate low so that the city does not decide one day to deregulate the area because of being overcharged by their monopoly electric company. Longview must also contend with the fact that by deregulating the area they could bring in new businesses and jobs to the city which gives them more tax dollars. In the end a Texas city or county may decide to deregulate because the electric rates would be cheaper, they could add tax revenue and new jobs, and the possibility that Texas Energy lobbyists have swayed them.