Regulators blast electricity providers for deception

Houston Chronicle, By L.M. Sixel

June 28, 2018 Updated: June 29, 2018 7:02am

Texas regulators criticized “misleading” offers by electric power providers on PowertoChoose.org, the website run by the Public Utility Commission of Texas, and launched an effort to introduce more transparency into the system that millions of Texans rely upon to buy electricity.

Commissioners put some of the state’s biggest retail power providers on notice to make their confusing, too-good-to-be-true price plans easier for consumers to understand or regulators will step in and do it for them. The commission hopes to finish its inquiry by August.

DeAnn T. Walker, chairman of the Public Utility Commission of Texas, said during a public meeting Thursday that she felt moved to act because the commission has received lots of complaints recently about multi-tiered pricing systems that some retail power providers offer. Some charge 2.3 cents per kilowatt hour for consumers who use up to 1,000 kilowatt hours of power each month, but then spike if consumers use more power.

For more: 

https://www.houstonchronicle.com/business/energy/article/Regulators-blast-electricity-providers-for-13035691.php

Record-Breaking Electricity Usage Expected This Summer

By Robbie Owens  May 8, 2018 at 6:35 pm  CBS DFW 21

DALLAS (CBSDFW.COM) – Electricity demand will likely break records in Texas this summer, so experts are already warning about the pocketbook impact on consumers.

After all, it’s a pretty safe bet that Texas summers, sizzle. So the Barbero family in Dallas decided to stop gambling on how high the bills would go, and turned to solar power instead.

“In the summer, you can have a $400, $500 bill,” says Pebble Barbero. “We’re locked into our monthly rate for buying the panels and in the summer months we are generating more than enough electricity to cover all of our a/c costs and appliances and everything.” Barbero says the opportunity to use “green” energy also factored into the family’s decision.

The Electric Reliability Council of Texas, ERCOT, says the state has enough generating capacity to meet demand, yet the agency is already warning that “record-breaking peak usage” is expected this summer.

So whether it’s solar panels or simply turning up the thermostat, experts say conservation will be critical as we head into the warmer months. There’s already concern about the difference between the state’s power generating capacity and rising consumption: it’s called the “margin.”

For more: 

http://dfw.cbslocal.com/2018/05/08/record-breaking-electricity-usage-summer/

Texas' summer electricity prices expected to jump

Hot summer combined with closing of plants may result in price surges

By Ryan Maye Handy

February 20, 2018 Updated: February 20, 2018 9:01pm

Wholesale electricity prices in Texas are expected to jump this summer following the recent shutdowns of three of the state's largest coal-fired generating plants, which have driven the state's power reserves to their lowest level in more than a decade.

Retail customers in Texas would eventually feel the impact of rising wholesale prices in the form of higher electricity bills, but it is too soon to know when those bills might climb or by how much, analysts said. But anyone without a fixed-rate electricity contract could ride a roller-coaster of spiking power prices should there be a long stretch of extremely hot weather that sends demand soaring and stretches power supplies.

"We are going into a summer where people are going to be paying a lot, potentially paying a lot more," said Commissioner Brandy Marty Marquez at the state Public Utility Commission last week. "We are not really sure what we are going to see."

For more: 

https://www.houstonchronicle.com/business/article/Texas-summer-electricity-prices-expected-to-jump-12628755.php

 

Texas Coalition for Affordable Power: Although Consistently More Expensive, Residential Electricity Showing Promising Price Declines in Deregulated Market

July 11, 2017 08:00 AM Eastern Daylight Time

Businesswire.com

AUSTIN, Texas--(BUSINESS WIRE)--Average residential electricity prices in areas of Texas with retail electric competition have declined during a recent 10-year period, while simultaneously increasing in areas exempt from electric competition, according to a new reportfrom the Texas Coalition for Affordable Power.

Moreover, the average price of electricity for residential customers in areas with retail electric competition dipped below the national average during 2015. This marked the third such occasion in four years that average residential electricity prices in those areas fell below the national average, according to the report.

But the news is not all good for Texans livings in areas with retail electric competition. For instance, average residential electricity prices have remained consistently higher in those areas, as compared to deregulation-exempt areas. This has been true for every year for which data exist to conduct this analysis.

For more: http://www.businesswire.com/news/home/20170711005388/en/Texas-Coalition-Affordable-Power-Consistently-Expensive-Residential

Texas Is Too Windy and Sunny for Old Energy Companies to Make Money

In a windsurfers’ paradise, turbines capture gusts that pick up at exactly the right time - or the wrong time, if you're trying to sell natural gas.

By 

Ryan Collins, Bloomberg News

June 20, 2017, 4:00 AM CDT

From 

As attractive a renewable-energy concept as wind power is, it’s plagued by a fundamental flaw. It blows the most in the dead of night, precisely when there’s the least demand for electricity. That’s true for just about every wind-blown spot across the U.S., from the foothills of the Tehachapi Mountains in California to the coastal plains of North Carolina.

And then there’s South Texas.

It is to wind, engineers have discovered in recent years, a bit like what Napa Valley is to wine and Georgia is to peaches. For not only does the state’s Gulf Coast generate strong evening gusts, but it also blows fiercely in the middle of the day, just as electricity consumption is peaking.

It’s the result of something called convection currents—a phenomenon caused by the gap between the temperature on the water and land—and it’s allowing wind farms owned by Apex Clean Energy Inc. and Avangrid Inc. to tap into the midday spike in electricity prices that comes as air conditioners start to hum.

For more:

https://www.bloomberg.com/news/features/2017-06-20/texas-is-too-windy-and-sunny-for-old-energy-companies-to-make-money

A perfect electrical storm: Forces combine to squeeze power companies

By Ryan Maye Handy, Houston Chronicle

June 10, 2017 Updated: June 12, 2017 8:34am

A surge of renewable energy, persistently low natural gas prices, and the high costs of operating coal and nuclear plants are driving some of the nation's top merchant power companies to rethink their businesses - and consider mergers, sales or spinoffs - in an attempt to stay profitable and relevant in rapidly changing electricity markets.

Three of those companies, NRG Energy, Calpine Corp. and Dynegy, are headquartered in Houston, and all have made moves to reshape their companies as they grapple with thin margins, billions of dollars in debt and electric grids that are buying more and more power from wind and solar farms. Calpine is reportedly exploring putting itself up for sale, while Dynegy, operating under the weight of $33 billion in debt, is said to be in talks with Dallas-based Vistra Energy about a possible merger.

At NRG, major shareholders this year ousted the company's board chairman and secured two open seats in a bid to boost the company's stock and unload underperforming assets, including taking NRG subsidiaries into bankruptcy.

These moves are the result of disappointing performances by the companies and the power sector in general. The three Houston companies have struggled over the past several years - struggles that included bankruptcy filings by Calpine and Dynegy in 2005 and 2011 respectively - and seen their stock prices fall by more than half since 2014. More recently, Calpine's 2016 profit, at $92 million, was down 60 percent from $235 million in 2015. NRG made a slight recovery from its 2015 annual loss of $6.4 billion, but still reported a loss of $891 million in 2016. Dynegy reported a $1.24 billion loss in 2016, as compared with a 2015 profit of $50 million.

For more: 

http://www.houstonchronicle.com/business/article/Changing-markets-challenging-Houston-power-11210955.php