Texas Electricity, TCAP, and a Biased “History” – Part Two

Previously, I posted Part 1 of my look into TCAP’s (Texas Coalition for Affordable Power) history of deregulated electricity in the state of Texas, including a quick explanation of who TCAP is as an organization. To be honest, I could go page by page and pick apart much of what this “history” is claiming as fact, but I don’t think anyone wants to invest the time to read a 12 part rebuttal of this document by me. In the first part of this series, I explained who TCAP is and raised some questions about some statements and questions from their document’s Executive Summary Page.

Today I’m going to going to take a critical look at their “Major Findings” section of the document. Or at the very least, the first portion of their Major Findings section.

Continue reading “Texas Electricity, TCAP, and a Biased “History” – Part Two” »

Texas Electricity, TCAP, and a Biased “History” – Part One

Most people probably haven’t heard of TCAP, the Texas Coalition for Affordable Power. Although, if you’ve read the TER Blog or visited the TER Facebook page with any regularity, you might have seen me comment about TCAP’s public relations face, Recharge Texas. So who is TCAP? TCAP is a membership group of local community politicians who have banded together to negotiate bulk electricity rates. Basically they’re politicians who charge a membership fee and percentage of usage to negotiate the electricity contracts for local government entities:

Continue reading “Texas Electricity, TCAP, and a Biased “History” – Part One” »

Money Saving Program for Houston Electricity and Dallas Electricity Customers

The always informative Energy Choice Matters had an interesting article about a possible program for consumers in the Centerpoint and Oncor footprints to save money. Simple Energy (not to be mistaken with the recently purchased Simple Power), is a company that is trying to offer potential rewards for customers to save energy.

The only catch is that customers have to have provisioned Smart Meters.

Any customer with electricity in Houston or electricity in Dallas and a Facebook account can visit the Simple Energy web platform, enroll in with their Facebook username, and get started.

I don’t have a Smart meter, so I didn’t enroll, and as a result I can’t give you any more information about the application process. However, according to press release, customers can compete with friends and family members to see who can save the most electricity, making the process a potentially fun and competitive game. The potential rewards for customers include things like iTunes gift cards and iPads. It is a pretty interesting concept to promote green energy behavior.

Also, at least for the time being, it appears this program is truly philanthropic:

Simple Energy told Matters that it is not working with a REP or TDU in offering the program in Texas at this time. Nor is it monetizing the efficiency in any way.

The Texas offering is about product development, and testing and demonstrating the program’s potential, said Yoav Lurie, Founder and CEO of Simple Energy.

Might be something TER readers and fans of our Facebook page might want to check out.

PUC Hammers Texas Electricity Company

The PUC (Public Utilities Commission) receives a lot of heat from Texans, oftentimes undeserved. One of the many responsibilities of the PUC is to act on behalf of Texans when it comes to making sure they aren’t being exploited by electricity companies.

Now, when electric rates go up because people don’t read their terms of service, people often get upset, cry foul, and blame the PUC. I see reviews like this submitted through Texas Electricity Ratings all the time. This is an example the kind of thing the PUC doesn’t oversee.

Over the weekend, there was a case of the kind of oversight and action which IS the responsibility of the PUC. Glacial Energy is an electricity and natural gas provider licensed in 15 states (plus Washington D.C.), and the PUC slapped them with a $235,000 fine over the weekend. Glacial seems to specialize in commercial electricity as opposed to residential electricity, per what I dug up on their website, but their violations involved residential customers. Specifically:

Glacial Energy, now based in the U.S. Virgin Islands but founded in Dallas, collected sales tax from residential customers even though rules exempt them from paying sales tax for electricity, according to the Texas Public Utility Commission.

“Glacial violated rules regarding customer pricing disclosures and overbilled its customers,” the PUC wrote in a notice of violation.

But that is not the only rule the PUC has accused Glacial of breaking. They also claim that Glacial supplied false and misleading information to the PUC when they first applied for their REP license in 2006. The PUC claims that Glacial CEO, Gary Mole, was the former owner of a failed REP called Franklin Power. The PUC has some serious restrictions on the principal parties of failed REP’s being able to start new ones, and by having Gary Mole as their CEO, much less failing to disclose it, the PUC believes Glacial Energy provided them with false and misleading information in 2006.

Additionally, just to add a touch of the truly bizarre to this story, Glacial Energy is the same company that was named as a money-laundering front for Blood Diamonds. It’s actually worth reading the entire article I linked just because it sounds like a plot from a movie.

Glacial claims to have made refunds to customers for the over-billing. However, the PUC will actively take a hand in helping customers recover funds from over-billing through an informal complaint process, and after working with the electric companies, refunds are given back either through a customer credit or a direct payment.

From September 1st through December 31st of 2011, the PUC has obtained refunds/credits for customers to the tune of $117,600 through their informal complaint process. And in the two years of 2009 and 2010, the PUC leveled more than 9.8 million in penalties to electric companies. Considering the PUC takes a lot of flack from customers, I though it would be important to point out an instance where they are excelling in protecting customers in matters of deregulated Texas electricity.

Tres Amigas Superstation Gets an Investor

As I’ve written before, the Tres Amigas Superstation which is being to constructed to connect America’s 3 major electricity grids is a great project. Well, the project recently received a 12 million dollar investment by Matsui, a Japanese company. Matsui will take an equity stake in the Tres Amigas.

This is great news because anything to stabilize and further the completion of the Tres Amigas plant is fantastic, in my opinion. To recap, the Tres Amigas plant will interconnect the 3 major electricity grids in the U.S.: the Texas electricity grid, the Eastern grid, and the Western grid. Right now Texas is almost completely cut off from the rest of the country. This makes it difficult to get additional power resources during times where there is an energy shortage. Perfect examples of this were last February’s cold snap, last summer’s record temperatures, and potentially this summer as well. In fact, during last summer’s record high temperatures, Texas had to purchase electricity from Mexico to get some relief because they have better connections there than with any of our bordering states.

The Tres Amigas plant would allow for excess energy from other grids to flow into Texas during times of crisis, which would be a huge stabilization factor for what is considered to be inadequate reserves in Texas. Additionally, during times of the year when Texas has excess energy, particularly wind or other green energy, the new development would allow for this to flow into the rest of the country. Right now some people question the cost of transporting wind energy from where it’s collected in the panhandle to places like Houston. Shipping it to New Mexico would be cheaper and allow for excess Texas green energy to flow into the rest of the country. In my opinion, everybody wins.

Anyway, as I’ve said, this is great news for Texans. Anything that encourages this plant to completion and operation is good for the whole country. Additionally, Matsui, the company investing in the superstation, has a vested interest in smart grid technology, Carbon Dioxide Emissions, and renewable energy. It stands to reason this means that the Tres Amigas will also implement many environmentally friendly technologies that should make Green Advocates happy.