18 Jun


Reliant Offers to Pay Customers to Relinquish Control of Thermostat


Reliant Energy, a leading Texas retail electricity provider, is offering an interesting new deal to its customers in order to save electricity all over the state. Under the new program, which is completely voluntary, customers who opt into the deal would relinquish a bit of their control over their thermostat during the Texas summer heat, and Reliant would pay them for it.

The program is simple. Customers use Nest, a thermostat system owned by Google that can be controlled using a wireless internet connection. When the demand for electricity gets particularly high, as in very hot Texas summer months, Reliant can use Nest to remotely shut off customers’ air conditioning units for 30 minutes or less, thereby reducing state-wide electricity consumption. Reliant would then pay participating customers 80 cents per kilowatt-hour of electricity they did not use. How much they electricity they avoided using will be calculated based on comparisons to their historic electricity usage.

27 Feb


Texas Energy Market Overhaul: Needed or Not?


Right now, Texas operates an energy market that is designed as an energy-only or product-only market. This means that the markets can only trade on energy that currently exists. However, there is a push to make changes to the market to ensure that it will operate as a capacity market. This means that the traders on the market will be able to trade on the capacity of a company or a plant rather than what is being currently put out.

Proponents of changes say that there is no incentive for companies to invest in the capacity of their plants because the capacity does not make them any money on the markets. However, a change to a capacity market could force companies to invest in greater capacity. This change, proponents say, will force energy companies to provide more reliable energy in the future.

The change could prevent power scares that happened most recently, and keep them away in the future.

Read more here: http://www.texastribune.org/2014/02/04/grid-debate-new-info-does-little-sway-opinions/

23 Aug


Texas Governor Appoints Brandy Marty to PUC Leadership Committee


Texas Governor Rick Perry has filled the vacant seat on the 3 member panel that sets policy for the Texas electricity market.  The new appointee, Brandy Marty, is the Governor’s former Chief of Staff.  She will fill the vacancy created by the departure of Rolando Pablos on March 1 2013.  Pablos left the commission to join the private sector.

The Texas electricity grid is dealing with serious concerns about the ability of the grid to keep up with growing demand in the state as both the population and the economy continue to grow at a substantial pace.   The two incumbent members of the panel seem divided on some of the key proposals to alleviate the state’s capacity concerns.

Marty has a law degree from  St. Mary’s University in San Antonio, and has played many roles in the Perry camp including as policy director for the Governor’s 2010 primary campaign.  She is about to find herself in a position to have a direct impact Texas electricity rates and the make-up of the Texas electricity market for years to come.

14 Aug


Electricity Rate Cited as Most Important Factor in Texas Electricity Consumer Satisfaction


JD Power has released their annual Texas electricity consumers survey results.  Overall satisfaction for consumers of electricity within the Texas deregulated electricity market continues to rise.  Results this year were the highest in the survey’s history.

Respondents also reported the highest level of satisfaction with the rates being charged by the electric providers in the history of the report.  Price satisfaction for people who could choose their electric providers by shopping for the lowest rates was considerably higher than for those who had to receive electric service from the regulated monopoly providers in their area.

According to a press release by JD Power,

“Deregulation of the residential electric market in Texas opened the doors to healthy price competition and also focused residential customers on finding the cost savings and service programs that match their needs,” said Chris Oberle, senior director of the energy practice at J.D. Power. “Satisfaction isn’t just about price. Retail electric providers must stay connected to their customers with clear, frequent and effective communications and quality customer touch points, including billing and payment, customer service, corporate citizenship, enrollment and beyond, to achieve a premier provider position.”

For the fourth year in a row, Champion Energy Services ranked highest among the individual providers.  Other providers who ranked highly include, Green Mountain Energy, Bounce Energy, StarTex Power, and Brilliant Energy.


Full Release: J.D. Power Reports: Customers of Texas Retail Electric Providers Are More Satisfied Than Customers of Regulated Utilities, Driven Primarily by Price


02 May


4Change Energy Picks Charity Recipients


4Change Energy, a retail electric provider owned by the same parent company as TXU Energy, has announced the four organizations which will receive its charitable dollars.   The company has pledged to give 4% of its profits to charity.  Until now, the company had only disclosed the categories for which it intended to direct its charitable giving.

The Organizations are:

  • Texas Food Bank Network
  • American Cancer Society
  • American Red Cross
  • Heroes for Children

The company, which began offing service last August claims to be able to offer lower electricity rates because of its low overhead and simplified business model.


Read More

08 Apr


New York Renewable Energy Plan Problematic


According to Bloomberg,  a recent proposed plan by a Cornell University to transition of off fossil fuels entirely by 2030 would cost hundreds of billions of dollar; casting doubt on the feasibility of the proposal.   Aside from the financial roadblocks, there would be practical challenges to implementing a plan such as that laid out in the Cornell proposal.  Specifically, 13% of New York state’s land mass would have to be dedicated to wind turbines.


From  Bloomberg:

“The offshore wind turbines would cover an area of about 4,903 square miles, and onshore machines would cover a further 1,000 square miles, according to calculations based on Bloomberg New Energy Finance data for how much space each turbine would occupy. By comparison, New York City covers 305 square miles, and the state about 47,200 square miles.”

New York has dealt with high electricity prices recently as the state’s electricity providers are struggling to squeeze out profits with tight margins between  wholesale and retail rates for electricity rates.

27 Jan


TXU Cash Rewards Program – Not As Good As It Seems


TXU’s new television promotion focuses on the TXU Cash Rewards program.   As with many of TXU’s promotions there are problems with the Cash Rewards program.  The commercial promises up to 5% cash back but the catch is that the 5% rebate is only applicable in the 3rd year of a three year contract.  To start out the amount is only 3%.

Another problem is that the rates are so much higher than other electricity providers that the 5% cash back doesn’t really mean much.  Expect to pay 35% or more higher electricity rates for the privilege of getting the small rebate once a year.

This article goes in to detail about the promotion does the math and shows how it is really not as good a deal as it sounds like.


Read More: TXU Cash Rewards

01 Nov


Oncor Raises Fees in Dallas / Fort Worth


Oncor, the poles and wires company that delivers electricity to North Texas, has created a new pass-through fee that will be attached to the electric bill of most North Texans regardless of who their electric company is.

The $60 or so per year fee levied on DFW area customers is intended to pay for major new capital projects undertaken recently by Oncor.  The fee still must receive final approval from the PUC in order to be permanent.


Read more:

27 Sep


Highlights From ERCOT 2012 Summer Review


  • As expected, weather was hotter than normal (15 year average), but not as extreme as summer 2011
  • The peak demand of  66,626 MW was set June 26, unusually early in the summer, 1,753 MW less than the August 2011 peak of 68,379 MW
  • The summer 2012 SARA forecasted a peak of 67,492 MW
  • No significant challenges serving load
    • Generation forced outages were lower than last year possibly due to temperatures and load not sustained at extreme levels
    • ERCOT region experienced more rain during the summer of 2012, so drought was not a broad concern
    • One watch for Physical Responsive Reserve below 2500 MW due to the tripping of two large generating units on July 30
    • No Energy Emergency Alert events
  • Four Transmission Watches issued for areas of South and West Texas due to high loads and some transmission outages
    • Load growth in West Texas due to gas and oil development led to more transmission congestion in the area

Filed Under: Deregulation, Texas

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11 Sep


Texas Electricity Market: Fall and Winter Outlook


Texas electricity operators can breath a sigh of relief as the summer seasons winds down.  There had been a great deal of concern about the ability of theTexasgrid to withstand the demands of another hot Texas summer. The Electric Reliability Council of Texas (ERCOT) the organization that manages the majority of theTexaselectric grid, had warned Texans that without conservation there might not be adequate supply inTexasto keep up with demand for electricity.  This would be especially true in the event of an unexpected supply disruption such as a strong storm.

ERCOT now assures the public that there should be adequate supply to meet demand over the fall and winter.  This is despite the planned shutdown of two coal power plants operated by Lumiant. Lumiant is the electricity production unit of Energy Future Holdings who is also the parent company of  TXU.  Lumiant plans to leave the plants in mothballs for 6 to 9 months and bring them back on line in time to meet demand next summer.

Challenges Ahead & Potential Rate Hikes

While the grid appears to have survived summer 2012 relatively in good shape,Texas is not out of the woods yet with respect to tight power supplies.   The problem of not having enough power to meet needs is a chronic condition that will likely effectTexasfor many years.

One of the more controversial measures taken to address the demand issue is the recent increase in the wholesale rate cap for electricity in Texas.    Since the Texas electricity market is deregulated, there is no fixed rate set on electricity prices.  However, there is a maximum rate cap set on wholesale prices.  Retail electric providers that sell electricity to Texas consumers must purchase electricity on the wholesale market.

The wholesale rate cap was already substantially higher than the normal price at which electricity is bought and sold on the open market in Texas.  The theory is that by raising the rate cap 50% beginning this summer and eventually raising it 200%, producers will have the opportunity to make more money and be incentivized to build new power plants.

Producers count on prices spiking up to the rate cap several times a year.  It is during these times that producers will get most of their annual profit.

Critics say power producers will simply pocket this new windfall and there is no guarantee it will lead to the development of new electricity generating projects.   While the rate cap increase doesn’t apply directly to rate payers, it’s not likely that retail electric companies will simply absorb the extra cost that will likely come about as a result of the rate cap in crease.  More than likely, it will put upward pressure on the electricity rates paid by residential and commercial electricity customers.

Winter Demand for Electricity

ERCOT expects peak winter demand to be about 53,000 megawatts. Total power supply at this time is expected to be 74,500 megawatts barring any major outages.  Assuming routine loss of capacity do to normal outages the reserve margin should be a comfortable 12,700.  In a scenario that takes into account extreme outages or extreme weather the reserve margin could dip to as little as 3,300 megawatts.  Reserve margin is the safety cushion that planners try to have between expected demand and available supply.  ERCOT likes to maintain at least a 13% reserve margin.

Although supply is expected to be adequate, ERCOT is forecasting a strong demand for electricity this winter as a result of the el Nino weather pattern that typically results in colder than usual winter weather for Texas.