Your Electric Bill

your-electric-bill

Tonight at 10, we answered a couple of the dozens of emails we’ve received from frazzled customers about CenterPoint estimating your meters instead of actually reading them.

Tomorrow, the Public Utility Commission is addressing some of your frustrations too. It will be a public meeting in Austin. Remember this summer when several electric companies went bankrupt or closed their doors, shuffling customers to new companies with outrageous rates?

Well, this meeting is the culmination of months of work by the PUC to try and pass some new rules that would prevent that kind of electric consumer catastrophe again.

Thre document describing all of the changes under consideration is 141 pages. I have it in PDF, but for some reason it’s not downloading here.

Here are some highlights:

The rule will improve disclosures to customers for retail electric service by updating the requirements of the electricity facts label and terms of service documents and will clarify advertising and marketin responsibilities.

  • The commission notes that its current rule does not permit a termination penalty to be assessed in the event that a customer moves to a different premise, regardless of whether the customer moves next door or to a different state.                                                                 

     

 Some power companies suggested to Commission members that moving constitutes a termination of service and that electric providers should be able to charge you an early termination fee for relocating.

  • Should the commission allow plans that do not have a method of determining the price from a publicly available data?

     

In other words, should electric companies be allowed to have variable rate plans, but not reveal what causes the rate to change? Right now when you sign up for a variable rate plan, most electric companies spell out that “market  conditions” like the cost of natural gas could cause fluctations in your price per kilowatt. You can easily look up or find the cost of natural gas or a barrel of oil.

 

Gateway, First Choice, TEAM, Reliant, ARM, Green Mountain and Tara supported allowing products for which a method of determining price is not specified.

 

 

The Commission believes that the customer information documents must clearly disclose the current price and a recent price history for the product and provide a description of how the price for the product is determined or a notice in bold print that states the price can change with no advance notice at the discretion of the REP.

  • The Commission wants all electric companies to notify you 45 days before a rate increase on your bill, even if you signed up for a variable rate plan.
  • The Commission may approve 3 types of rate plans. Right now, there are many more. The 3 types will be Fixed rate, variable rate and index rate. The “index rate” will most closely follow the price of electricity on the wholesale market.

Here is how the Commission explains an “index plan:”

The value of this product is in the fact that the customer can independently verify that it has been billed appropriately. The purpose of these classifications is to assist customers by giving them a shorthand description of a plan that will facilitate comparing it to other similar plans. The commission concludes that the idea of an indexed price is one that has a logical meaning in the competitive energy market and can be readily understood by customers.

 

If you haven’t fallen asleep yet, and you still want more information, you can read all of the Commission’s ideas (and the objections and input of elecrtic companies) by clicking on this link: PUC Filings Retrieval

Where it says “Control Number, ” type in “35768.” Then hit “Search now.” You can click on all of the links and read away!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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