TU Backing Texas Deregulation Bill Now in House
Dallas-based Texas Utilities said it supports a bill to
deregulate Texas' $19 billion electric industry. The proposal was
passed Wednesday by the House State Affairs Committee by a vote of
13 to 2 and now goes to the full House for consideration.
"We want to see the bill remain intact because it represents
some positive steps for the small consumer and overall growth of
the state," said Tom Baker, president of TU Electric's distribution
Baker said the bill offered by Rep. Steve Wolens may not be
exactly as Texas Utilities would have written it, but the pluses
now outweigh the minuses. "It is time for Texas to move forward to
electric industry restructuring, and this bill offers a good
vehicle. It ensures that all customers will benefit, that
reliability is maintained, that competition will be fair, and that
the past obligations and investments that built and are sustaining
today's electric infrastructure are honored," he said.
The current bill would freeze rates of investor-owned utilities
until competition begins Jan. 1, 2002, and then would lower those
rates 6%. Appropriate consumer protections would have to be
followed by all retail electricity providers. The first-ever
program to help low-income residents, including low-income elderly
and disabled, pay bills and improve home energy efficiency would be
Stranded cost recovery is provided, and securitization may be
used as a mechanism for recovering those costs. Securitization
reduces costs to customers and is the most economical method of
cost recovery. In addition, a "system benefit fund" will be
established to fund customer education and low-income assistance
programs, and to replace reductions in state and local property tax
revenues that may result from restructuring the electric industry.
The Texas Senate in March passed an earlier electric
deregulation bill, but since the proposed legislation has changed,
the Senate would have to approve the bill currently in the House
should it pass. The Texas legislative session ends May 31.
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