In what I consider great news, and despite an earlier ruling by a Texas judge, last week the PUC voted 2-1 to forbid AEP from using the name “AEP Retail Energy” to sell electricity in the state of Texas.
I wrote extensively about what I saw as the dangers of selling Texas electricity under the AEP brand name in earlier articles, and I was dismayed when a judge ruled that doing so didn’t violate any of the existing PURA laws in regards to joint marketing and the separation of TDU’s (Transmission & Distribution Utilities) and REP (Retail Electricity Providers). However, despite the Judge’s ruling (which took into account testimony from the PUC), the PUC went ahead and voted to forbid the use of the AEP Retail Energy name for selling electricity in Texas.
Not only does this work to prevent confusion on the part of the customers as to who exactly is providing them electricity (in what is already a confusing market), but it also acts as a barrier for other TDU’s who would have been looking to take competitive advantage of their established corporate brands to sell retail electricity. For example Centerpoint, the company that acts as the TDU in the Houston area, still owns the rights to the name HL&P (Houston Lighting & Power). What would have stopped them from using that name with it’s decades of consumer recognition, to sell electricity? Or to sell electricity as HL&P AND Centerpoint Electricity? This move should hopefully keep those kinds of initiatives to a minimum.
Also interesting in this article to me was the dynamic of the 2-1 vote against the move. The one vote in favor was Donna Nelson, commissioner of the PUC. Lately Kenneth Anderson, also a PUC board member, has been voting against Nelson or disagreeing with her publicly on the increase of the market cap and it’s ability to create new generation. Interestingly enough Donna Nelson was in favor of allowing AEP to do business. And it’s not surprisingly that Kenneth Anderson opposed her. But it is somewhat interesting that the newest appointed member of the PUC, Rolando Pablos, voted with Anderson instead of Nelson. This is the first major issue where Pablos hasn’t sided strictly with Nelson in any vote. I wonder if any political shakeup is taking place in the PUC?