Members of the Texas Public Utility Commission Thursday pushed for faster reform for the state website that’s supposed to be a reliable place to shop for electricity, powertochoose.org.
PUC Chairman Donna Nelson announced a special June 21 meeting of stakeholders in her office to move the project faster.
"I was a little concerned about the project dragging out because of the effects it has on the ‘Power to Choose’ website," Nelson said.
Consumer advocate Carol Biedrzycki with Texas Ratepayers’ Organization to Save Energy (Texas ROSE) said she has been invited to the special meeting.
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“Consumers are very confused because they can’t compare the pricing of plans because of the way the pricing is done,” Biedrzycki said.
For instance, some one-cent per kilowatt offers claim to be ‘fixed’ price, but Biedrzycki said they exclude delivery charges and other fees that normally make the price much higher.
“Someone, as far as I’m concerned, has been asleep at the switch at the PUC because those plans should never be posted as fixed price plans in the first place,” Biedrzycki said.
Nelson said providers have been asked before not to post “deceptive” offers and she repeated the request Thursday.
“Once again, I want to caution the reps about putting out offers that are way below cost or that are impossible to meet,” Nelson said.
As work continues on possible new rules for what is offered on the website, Commissioner Kenneth Anderson from Dallas said providers skirting existing rules could face sanctions.
“I think we generally agree that there’s got to be some changes, and particularly around these deceptive plans,” Anderson said. “There are plans out there that on their face are not realistic. That’s where I think possible enforcement action could come into play.”
Around 50 providers offer electric service in North Texas to customers who are not serviced by co-ops or city owned utilities. Those providers offer hundreds of different plans on the state site.
Some companies have asked the PUC to close the site and let companies sell their own plans away from the confusion of so many competitors. A PUC filing from TXU Energy says the federal government does not provide government run sites to sell plane tickets or banking products and the Texas deregulated electric market has matured enough that consumers should be able to make retail power choices on their own.
All three commissioners Thursday said consumer response so far says to keep the state site, but fix it.
“They still seem to want ‘Power to Choose. They’d like a neutral site,” Anderson said.
Consumers can file comments at the email address: PTC45730@puc.texas.gov