Deregulation of the Texas electricity market

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Electricity deregulation in Texas, approved by Texas Senate Bill 7 on January 1, 2002, calls for the creation of the Electric Utility Restructuring Legislative Oversight Committee to oversee implementation of the bill. According to the law, deregulation would be phased in over several years.

Texas Senate

The Texas Senate is the upper house of the Texas State Legislature. There are 31 members of the Senate, representing single-member districts across the U.S. state of Texas, with populations of approximately 806,000 per constituency, based on the 2010 U.S. Census. There are no term limits, and each term is four years long. Elections are held in even-numbered years on the first Tuesday after the first Monday in November. In elections in years ending in 2, all seats are up for election. Half of the senators will serve a two-year term, based on a drawing; the other half will fill regular four-year terms. In the case of the latter, they or their successors will be up for two-year terms in the next year that ends in 0. As such, in other elections, about half of the Texas Senate is on the ballot. The Senate meets at the Texas State Capitol in Austin. The Republicans currently control the chamber, which is made up of 19 Republicans and 12 Democrats.

Deregulation is the process of removing or reducing state regulations, typically in the economic sphere. It is the repeal of governmental regulation of the economy. It became common in advanced industrial economies in the 1970s and 1980s, as a result of new trends in economic thinking about the inefficiencies of government regulation, and the risk that regulatory agencies would be controlled by the regulated industry to its benefit, and thereby hurt consumers and the wider economy.

Contents

As a result, 85% [1] of Texas power consumers (those served by a company not owned by a municipality or a utility cooperative) can choose their electricity service from a variety of retail electric providers (REPs), including the incumbent utility. The incumbent utility in the area still owns and maintains the local power lines (and is the company to call in the event of a power outage) and is not subject to deregulation. Customers served by cooperatives or municipal utilities can choose an alternate REP only if the utility has "opted in" to deregulation; to date, only the area served by the Nueces Electric Cooperative has chosen to opt in.

A utility cooperative is a type of cooperative that is tasked with the delivery of a public utility such as electricity, water or telecommunications to its members. Profits are either reinvested for infrastructure or distributed to members in the form of "patronage" or "capital credits", which are dividends paid on a member's investment in the cooperative.

Since 2002, approximately 85% of commercial and industrial consumers have switched power providers at least once. Approximately 40% of residential consumers in deregulated areas have switched from the former incumbent provider to a competitive REP. REPs providing service in the state include: AmeriPower, TriEagle Energy, Acacia Energy, Ambit Energy, Breeze Energy, Clearview Energy, Green Mountain Energy, Conservice Energy, Iluminar Energy, Now Power, Snap Energy, Entrust Energy, Bounce Energy, Champion Energy, Shnye Energy, Cirro Energy, Direct Energy, Dynowatt, First Texas Energy Corporation, Frontier Utilities, Gexa Energy, Glacial Energy, Just Energy, Kinetic Energy, Mega Energy, APG&E, Adjacent Energy, Spark Energy, StarTex Power, Stream Energy, Tech Electricity, Texas Power, TXU Energy, XOOM Energy and 4Change Energy.

Ambit Energy American multi-level marketing company

Ambit Energy is an International multi-level marketing company that provides electricity and natural gas services in energy markets in the U.S. that have been deregulated.The company's corporate headquarters are located in Dallas, Texas, and its operations/call center headquarters are located in Plano, Texas. Ambit Energy was founded in 2006 in Addison, Texas by Jere Thompson Jr. and Chris Chambless.

Green Mountain Energy

Green Mountain Energy Company is a United States company that offers electricity products, carbon offsets, and "sustainable solutions" to residential and commercial customers.

Champion Energy

Champion Energy Services, LLC is a retail electricity provider (REP) based in Houston, Texas. Champion Energy currently serves residential, governmental, commercial and industrial customers in deregulated electric energy markets in Texas, Illinois, Ohio, Pennsylvania, New Jersey and New York; governmental, commercial and industrial customers in Delaware, Maryland and Washington, D.C.; and natural gas customers in Illinois. The company is a subsidiary of Calpine.

According to a 2014 report [2] by the Texas Coalition for Affordable Power (TCAP), "deregulation cost Texans about $22 billion from 2002 to 2012. And residents in the deregulated market pay prices that are considerably higher than those who live in parts of the state that are still regulated. For example, TCAP found that the average consumer living in one of the areas that opted out of deregulation, such as Austin and San Antonio, paid $288 less in 2012 than consumers in the deregulated areas."

However, the report concluded that re-regulating the market would not solve the issue. TCAP instead offered a series of reforms designed to increase market efficiency. [3]

Background

Texas has electricity consumption of $24 billion a year, the highest among the U.S. states. Its annual consumption is comparable to that of Great Britain and Spain, and if the state were an independent nation, its electricity market would be the 11th largest in the world. Texas produces the most wind electricity in the U.S., but also has the highest Carbon Dioxide Emissions of any state. [4] As of 2012, Texas residential electricity rates ranked 31st in the United States and average monthly residential electric bills in Texas were the 5th highest in the nation. [5]

Great Britain island in the North Atlantic off the north-west coast of continental Europe

Great Britain is an island in the North Atlantic Ocean off the northwest coast of continental Europe. With an area of 209,331 km2 (80,823 sq mi), it is the largest of the British Isles, the largest European island, and the ninth-largest island in the world. In 2011, Great Britain had a population of about 61 million people, making it the world's third-most populous island after Java in Indonesia and Honshu in Japan. The island of Ireland is situated to the west of Great Britain, and together these islands, along with over 1,000 smaller surrounding islands, form the British Isles archipelago.

Spain Kingdom in Southwest Europe

Spain, officially the Kingdom of Spain, is a country mostly located in Europe. Its continental European territory is situated on the Iberian Peninsula. Its territory also includes two archipelagoes: the Canary Islands off the coast of Africa, and the Balearic Islands in the Mediterranean Sea. The African enclaves of Ceuta, Melilla, and Peñón de Vélez de la Gomera make Spain the only European country to have a physical border with an African country (Morocco). Several small islands in the Alboran Sea are also part of Spanish territory. The country's mainland is bordered to the south and east by the Mediterranean Sea except for a small land boundary with Gibraltar; to the north and northeast by France, Andorra, and the Bay of Biscay; and to the west and northwest by Portugal and the Atlantic Ocean.

United States federal republic in North America

The United States of America (USA), commonly known as the United States or America, is a country composed of 50 states, a federal district, five major self-governing territories, and various possessions. At 3.8 million square miles, the United States is the world's third or fourth largest country by total area and is slightly smaller than the entire continent of Europe's 3.9 million square miles. With a population of over 327 million people, the U.S. is the third most populous country. The capital is Washington, D.C., and the largest city by population is New York City. Forty-eight states and the capital's federal district are contiguous in North America between Canada and Mexico. The State of Alaska is in the northwest corner of North America, bordered by Canada to the east and across the Bering Strait from Russia to the west. The State of Hawaii is an archipelago in the mid-Pacific Ocean. The U.S. territories are scattered about the Pacific Ocean and the Caribbean Sea, stretching across nine official time zones. The extremely diverse geography, climate, and wildlife of the United States make it one of the world's 17 megadiverse countries.

System

The law designated the Electric Reliability Council of Texas (ERCOT) to be the authority to oversee grid reliability and operations so as to ensure no particular buyer or seller would gain an unfair advantage in the market.

The "price to beat"

Included within SB7 was the notion of the "price to beat" or PTB, an idea of a regulated rate governing the pricing behavior of the former utilities.

According to a typical economic theory, prices are optimally determined in a fair and transparent market, and not by a political or academic body. In deregulation of electricity markets, one immediate concern with pricing is that incumbent electricity providers would undercut the prices of new entrants, preventing competition and perpetuating the existing monopoly of providers. Thus, the SB7 bill introduced a phase-in period during which a price floor would be established (for incumbent electricity companies) to prevent this predatory practice, allowing new market entrants to become established. New market entrants could charge a price below the price to beat, but incumbents could not. This period was to last from 2002 to January 1, 2007. As of 2007 Texas investor owned utility affiliates no longer have price to beat tariffs. [6]

How is the price to beat established?

In order to prompt entry into the market, the price to beat would have to be high enough to allow for a modest profit by new entrants. Thus, it had to be above the cost of inputs such as natural gas and coal. For example, a price to beat fixed at the actual wholesale procurement price of electricity does not give potential entrants a margin to compete against incumbent utilities. Second, the price to beat would have to be reasonably low, to enable as many customers as possible to continue to consume electricity during the transition period.

Results

Electricity prices

One desired effect of the competition is lower electricity rates. In the first few years after the deregulation in 2002, the residential rate for electricity increased seven times, with the price to beat at around 15 cents per kilowatt hour (as of July 26, 2006, www.powertochoose.org) in 2006. However, while prices to customers increased 43% from 2002 to 2004, the costs of inputs rose faster, by 63%, showing that not all increases have been borne by consumers. [7] (See Competition and entry of new firms above for discussion on the relationship between retail prices, inputs, and investment.)

Compared to the rest of the nation, data from the U.S. Energy Information Administration which publishes annual state electric prices [8] shows that Texas' electric prices did rise above the national average immediately after deregulation from 2003 to 2009, but, from 2010 to 2015 have moved significantly below the national average price per kWh, with a total cost of $0.0863 per kWh in Texas in 2015 vs. $0.1042 nationally, or 17 percent lower in Texas. Between 2002-2014 the total cost to Texas consumers is estimated to be $24B, an average of $5,100 per household, more than comparable markets under state regulation. [9] [10]

New Competition

The price to beat seemed to accomplish its goal of attracting competitors to the market during the period through January 1, 2007. It allowed competitors to enter the market without allowing the incumbents to undercut them in price. It has also given energy consumers the ability to compare energy rates offered by different providers. The less-regulated providers undercut the price to beat by only a small margin given that they must balance lower prices (to attract customers and build market share) with higher prices (needed to reinvest in new power plants). Due to the small difference in competing prices and slow (yearly or so) "buying" process, price decrease due to competition was very slow, and it took a few years to offset the original increase by "traditional" electric providers and move to lower rates.

One of the benchmarks of a successful free market is the range of choice provided to customers. Choice can be viewed both in terms of the number of firms active in the market as well as the variety of products those firms offer to consumers. In the first decade of retail electric deregulation in Texas, the market experienced dramatic changes in both metrics. In 2002, residential customers in the Dallas-Fort area could choose between 10 retail electric providers offers a total of 11 price plans. By the end of 2012, there were 45 retail electric providers offering 258 different price plans to residential customers in that market. [11] Similar increases in the number of retail electric providers and available plans have been realized in other deregulated electricity market areas with the state.

Environmental Impact

In environmental impact, results are mixed. With the ability to invest profits to satisfy further energy demand, producers like TXU are proposing eleven new coal-fired powerplants. Coal powerplants are cheaper than natural gas-fired powerplants, but produce more pollution. When the private equity firms Kohlberg Kravis Roberts and the Texas Pacific Group announced the take-over of TXU, the company which was known for charging the highest rates in the state and were losing customers, they called off plans for eight of the coal plants. TXU had invested more heavily in the other three. A few weeks later the buyers announced plans for two cleaner IGCC coal plants.

There are positive environmental impacts from retail price deregulation as well. The profitable and growing Texas electricity market has drawn considerable investment by wind-turbine companies. In July 2006, Texas surpassed California in wind energy production.

Another positive environmental impact is the effect of higher energy prices on consumer choices, similar to the US market trend toward more fuel-efficient cars. As electric bills have risen, residents are reducing their electrical usage by using more moderate thermostat settings, installing insulation, installing solar screens, and other such activities. Texas utilities (such as Austin Energy) are also installing advanced electricity meters that may one day enable variable pricing based on the time of day. This would permit energy customers to save money by further tailoring their consumption based on whether it occurred during the peak demand period (high cost/high pollution) or the off-peak (night time).

Effect on Renewable Energy

Due to the increased usage of natural gas immediately after deregulation, new-era energy tools such as wind power and smart-grid technology were greatly aided. Texas' first "renewable portfolio standard" — or requirement that the state's utilities get a certain amount of their power from renewable energy like wind — was signed into law in 1999, as part of the same legislation that deregulated the electric market.

See also

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GenOn Energy

GenOn Energy, Inc., based in Houston, Texas, United States, was an energy company that provided electricity to wholesale customers in the United States. The company was one of the largest independent power producers in the nation with more than 14,000 megawatts of power generation capacity across the United States using natural gas, fuel oil and coal. GenOn Energy is headquartered in the Reliant Energy Plaza in Downtown Houston. The company, formerly known as RRI Energy, acquired Mirant on December 3, 2010. The corporate names and logos of both RRI Energy and Mirant were retired.

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TXU Energy company

TXU Energy is a retail electricity provider headquartered in Irving, Texas, serving residential and business customers in deregulated regions of Texas since the deregulation of the Texas electricity market in 2002. A subsidiary of Vistra Energy, it is one of the largest retail electricity providers in Texas.

Direct Energy is a North American retailer of energy and energy services. The company was founded in 1986 and has more than four million customers in Canada and the United States. Direct Energy is a subsidiary of UK-based utility company Centrica.

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Texas Genco was a power generation company that came about as part of the deregulated Texas electricity market and owned numerous power plants in the Houston area that serve area power needs. The Company was created in 2001 as part of the Texas electricity market deregulation. Incumbent utilities were required to separate their business functions into a retail electric provider (REP), a transmission and distribution service provider (TDSP), and a wholesale generator.

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References

  1. "Explore Energy Rates in Texas". SaveOnEnergy.com. Retrieved 15 October 2013.
  2. Dyer, R. A. (2014), Deregulated Electricity in Texas (PDF), Texas Coalition for Affordable Power
  3. Steffy, Loren (March 2014), The Generation Gap, Texas Monthly
  4. "2013 State Energy Facts - Texas" (PDF). SaveOnEnergy.com. Retrieved 15 October 2013.
  5. "Texas Electricity Rates". Electricity Local. Retrieved 2014-03-31.
  6. Expired Price to Beat Tariffs for Affiliated Retail Electric Providers, Public Utility Commission of Texas, Retrieved 21 January 2017
  7. Monthly Electric Utility Sales and Revenue Report with State Distributions (Form EIA-826), U.S. Energy Information Administration, February 2016
  8. http://www.houstonchronicle.com/business/energy/article/Texas-consumers-pay-more-in-deregulated-7972017.php
  9. Texas consumers pay more in deregulated electricity markets, study says But affordable deals for electricity are starting to increase, official for nonprofit coalition says, Jordan BlumJune 8, 2016
  10. "Scope of Competition in Electric Markets in Texas" (PDF). Public Utility Commission of Texas. Retrieved 11 February 2015.