State senators, PUC officials spar over Texas electricity pricing

JAMES OSBORNE

 The Dallas Morning News

Staff Writer

Published: 25 November 2013 09:20 AM

Updated: 25 November 2013 02:27 PM

In a hearing before the Senate’s Natural Resources Committee Monday Texas Public Utility Commission Chairman Barbara Nelson took tough questioning on her agency’s authority to restructure the state’s electricity market.

The question of whether to modify the market structure to get power companies building again has become a controversial one in Austin, pitting business interests against power interests in a fight that some believe could amount to billions in additional revenues for the power industry.

Nelson, who is widely seen as a proponent of overhauling the market, defended the move while conceding the decision might not ultimately lie with her agency.

“It’s not a total redesign. A capacity market is still a market, and I still believe in the market,” she testified. “Obviously the legislature determines what our authority is.”

The hearing before the senate committee comes weeks after the PUC announced its intention to mandate the amount of power capacity on the grid. That was widely seen as the first step towards the creation of a so-called capacity market under which plants are paid not just for the power they sell to customers but their total generating capacity.

The move outraged state Sen. Troy Fraser, R-Horseshoe Bay, chairman of the natural resources committee, who called the meeting Monday. During questioning of Nelson, he said the two had met in April and she had assured him she would not support a capacity market.

“You told me it was your intent to back off the capacity market,” he said. “You waited until we were out of session, and then you started the discussion about a capacity market.”

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