In what I consider to be extremely poor tidings, Paul Ring of Energy Choice Matters is reporting that a judge in the Texas Courts is going to allow AEP to sell retail electricity as “AEP Retail Energy” under the license name AEP Texas Commercial & Industrial Retail Limited Partnership. I’ve written about this extensively before (part 1, part 2, part 3, part 4) and things were looking up when the PUC (Public Utilities Commission of Texas) formally weighed in against AEP’s brand licensing, but apparently that wasn’t enough to sway a Texas judge in this case that allowing AEP to sell electricity with a formal license that starts with “AEP Texas” and leans heavily on the AEP brand name.
Personally, I think this is a terrible decision, and one that will be confusing and damaging to the retail electricity market in Texas. Like it or not, lots of people don’t understand the Texas electricity market and there might be a perceived advantage in their eyes to getting their electricity from, as they see it, a company that also maintains the poles and power lines. Additionally, the built in brand could be yet another blow and competitive disadvantage for newer electric companies without an incumbent tie-in. And finally, the biggest fear I have, is that this decision paves the way for other TDSPs to get into the retail electricity market with their own brands. Can Centerpoint Retail Electricity and Oncor Retail Electricity be far behind? Or even worse, Centerpoint owns the rights to the old brand “Houston Lighting & Power,” which provided electricity to Houston for 100 years. Looks like the rich keep getting richer, which I think is rarely a good thing for Texas consumers.