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Texas power regulator rejects request to cut $16 billion in charges during freeze



TX – Texas’ state power regulator on Friday unanimously vetoed a request to cut about $16 billion from state power charges during the final day of the state’s February cold snap, saying even a partial repricing could have unintended effects.

The Public Utility Commission deferred voting on a separate proposal to slice service fees that would have saved retail electric providers about $1.5 billion for power never provided. Both proposals were recommended by the state’s independent power market adviser.

Total electricity charges jumped by about $47 billion during a winter storm that knocked out nearly half of Texas power plants, hiking prices for gas and power that have roiled the state’s energy sector. Storm-related costs sent one company into bankruptcy and a dozen more face being unplugged from the state’s grid for non-payment.

“The PUC choose to ignore the recommendation of the economists hired by the state to advise regulators,” Brandon Young, chief executive of Payless Power, an electricity marketer, said in an interview. “As a result, $16 billion in costs are being passed to all electric providers – retail electric, municipal providers and cooperatives.”

The state’s grid operator had raised power prices to $9,000 per megawatt hour, to induce power plant operator to increase power or stay running for five days. However, that 450-times-the-usual price remained in place after the emergency passed, adding about $16 billion to the total.

State market adviser Carrie Bivens described that final day’s pricing as a mistake by grid operator Electric Reliability Council of Texas, recommending the PUC “correct ERCOT’s real time prices.”

Revising prices could hurt the companies that had hedged their power costs and result in greater uncertainty, said commissioners.