TX PUC Wants Level Playing Field for Utilities
When electric deregulation begins in Texas next January, the
state's largest utilities, Reliant Energy Inc. and TXU Corp., may
hold an unfair advantage because they own natural gas distribution
companies. To level the playing field, the Texas Public Utilities
Commission is working to amend the Gas Utilities Regulatory Act,
and once formal legislation is introduced, the state's smaller
utilities are expected to lobby for its passage.
In its recent annual report to the legislature, the PUC said
certain amendments would prevent the "development of a potentially
anti-competitive situation involving affiliated natural gas
utilities and electric utilities." Reliant owns Entex while TXU
owns Enserch, which are two of the state's largest natural gas
local distribution utilities.
The PUC wants to revise the regulations by adding a provision to
the act that would require local distribution companies to offer
combination billing or rebranding to all electricity retailers with
the same terms and conditions as it does for its affiliated retail
The PUC said that under the unbundling requirements of the
omnibus deregulation bill, Senate Bill 7, incumbent electric
utilities would create affiliated electric retailers. As it stands
now, TXU and Reliant would be affiliated with an electric retailer
and their ability to combine gas and electric billing or service
could make it difficult for other retailers to compete. The current
regulations also would allow an affiliated electric retailer to
directly provide gas service by rebranding the service under its
If a customer were to choose an electric retailer that is
affiliated with the local gas distribution company, he could
receive one bill for both gas and electric service, but the PUC
said it would be an unfair advantage "to two companies that are
incumbent utilities and are affiliated with gas utilities."
Still in the preliminary stages, no formal legislation has been
introduced in the legislature. The PUC still needs the authority of
the Texas Railroad Commission, which oversees natural gas issues in
the state, and both regulatory agencies have met but no opinions
have been issued.
Carolyn Davis, Houston
©Copyright 2001 Intelligence Press, Inc. All rights
reserved. The preceding news report may not be republished or
redistributed in whole or in part without prior written consent of
Intelligence Press, Inc.