The official newsletter of the Texas Office of Public Utility Counsel
As I’ve highlighted in past newsletters, OPUC attorneys, experts, and staff advocate for Texas utility ratepayers in litigated proceedings, such as rate cases, in agency rulemaking projects impacting residential and small business consumers, and through informational meetings across the state. What you may not know is that OPUC also serves a valuable role on behalf of its constituents as an active participant at the Electric Reliability Council of Texas (ERCOT), which is the Independent System Operator (ISO) for 75 percent of the Texas electric grid.
ERCOT is one of 10 regional reliability councils in the North American Electric Reliability Corporation (NERC), and the ERCOT ISO is the independent, not-for-profit organization responsible for the reliable transmission of electricity across Texas’ 37,000-mile power grid. ERCOT’s primary role since 1970 has been to ensure the coordination of electric transmission reliability and power transfers among NERC member organizations. Since Texas’ deregulation of the wholesale generation market in 1995 and creation of a competitive retail electricity market in 1999, ERCOT’s role has expanded significantly. ERCOT now provides structure and oversight of the energy market design and activities, including power scheduling and operations and retail market data transactions between retailers and wires companies.
OPUC has been an active participant in the market design stakeholder process since the inception of electric restructuring, and continues to do so by collaborating with the various market participants within the ERCOT committee and subcommittee structure to bring value to the process on behalf of consumers. As noted in previous OPUC newsletters, many of the activities in which OPUC participates and brings its unique perspective before both ERCOT and the Public Utility Commission (PUC) have been directly related to the generation adequacy issue to ensure the lights stay on for Texans.
Per statute, I serve as an ex-officio voting member of the ERCOT Board of Directors representing residential and small commercial electricity consumers. The Board has regular open meetings and consists of 16 members: 5 independents (unaffiliated with the power industry); 3 consumers; 6 industry market segment representatives; the PUC Chairman; and the ERCOT Chief Executive Officer.
I appoint two residential consumer members to ERCOT’s Technical Advisory Committee (TAC). TAC is primarily composed of market stakeholders that make recommendations to the Board regarding ERCOT policies and procedures and prioritize projects through the various stakeholder processes. I also appoint residential consumer representatives to serve on the other five ERCOT subcommittees that focus on retail markets, wholesale markets, reliability and operations, commercial operations, and protocol revisions. For more information see http://www.ercot.org/committees/.
OPUC will continue to represent and advocate for Texas homeowners and business owners to ensure reliable, reasonably priced electric service. Should you ever have questions about ERCOT-related issues, please call my office so that we may be of service.
- Sheri Givens
New Demand Response Rulemaking
Pursuant to the Public Utility Commission’s (PUC’s) discussions pertaining to the resource adequacy issue (as reported in OPUC’s Spring, Summer, and Winter 2012 newsletters), the Commission staff initiated Project No. 41061, Rulemaking Regarding Demand Response in the ERCOT Market, to explore the potential impact of demand response and further integration of this resource into the market. Demand response is a mechanism that allows the electricity consumer – both residential and commercial – to control their energy usage, or demand, during times of energy scarcity, or low energy supply. The PUC issued a request for comments in January pertaining to a variety of issues relevant to possible changes to the ERCOT market to help increase demand response penetration. OPUC and a variety of market stakeholders filed responses to staff’s request for comments in February, and the Commission scheduled a workshop in March to discuss the comments. OPUC is committed to ensuring that appropriate regulations and consumer safeguards are in place so that residential and small business customers are adequately protected when participating in aggregated demand response programs.
In the Fall 2012 newsletter, we provided an overview of the three new transmission-only providers had entered the Texas market and were seeking to establish rates to be recovered from Texas consumers. OPUC intervened and assisted in saving millions of dollars for Texas ratepayers.
Lone Star Transmission requested $18.3 million for the first phase of its operation and $28 million for its second phase. Thanks in part to OPUC’s participation, the PUC decided that Lone Star should only collect $10.47 million for the first phase and $14.65 million for its second phase for a total savings of $21 million.
Cross Texas Transmission requested approval to collect $49.668 million (after revising its initial request for $42.9 million). OPUC and the other parties to this case entered into a stipulation (or settlement agreement) that establishes that Cross Texas should collect $39.5 million saving Texas ratepayers $10.1 million.
The final new transmission-only company requesting rates, Wind Energy Transmission Texas, requested $46.578 million for its Phase I facilities and $49.706 million for its Phase II facilities. OPUC participated in settlement negotiations with the other intervening parties. As a result, the parties agreed on a revenue requirement for Wind Energy of $41.8 million for its first phase and $43.5 million for its second phase, resulting in a savings of $10.9 million to Texas ratepayers.
OPUC continues to represent the residential and small commercial class customers in a variety of litigated proceedings at the PUC. A few of the many ongoing cases include Southwestern Electric Power Company’s request for an increase in rates, Entergy’s request to transfer its transmission assets to ITC Holdings Corporation, and the appeal of Austin Energy’s requested rate increase.
Spring Quick Tips
Use Your Windows
- If you live in a Texas region where it cools off at night, turn off your cooling system and open your windows while sleeping. When you wake in the morning, shut the windows and blinds to capture the cool air.
Learn more about natural ventilation.
- Install window coverings to prevent heat gain through your windows.
Find out about window treatments and coverings that can improve energy efficiency.
Be a Thermostat Expert
- Set your thermostat as high as comfortably possible in the spring and summer. The smaller the difference between the indoor and outdoor temperatures, the lower your overall cooling bill will be.
- Keep your house warmer than normal when you are away, and lower the thermostat setting when you are at home and need cooling. A programmable thermostat can make it easy to set back your temperature.
- Avoid setting your thermostat at a colder setting than normal when you turn on your air conditioner. It will not cool your home any faster and could result in excessive cooling and unnecessary expense.
Use Fans and Other Ventilation to Cool Your Home
- If you use air conditioning, a ceiling fan will allow you to raise the thermostat setting about 4°F with no reduction in comfort.
- Turn off ceiling fans when you leave the room. Remember that fans cool people, not rooms, by creating a wind chill effect.
- When you shower or take a bath, use the bathroom fan to remove the heat and humidity from your home. Your laundry room might also benefit from spot ventilation. Make sure bathroom and kitchen fans are vented to the outside (not just to the attic).
Find ENERGY STAR ventilating fans.
Maintain Your Cooling System
- Schedule regular maintenance for your cooling equipment.
- Avoid placing lamps or TV sets near your air-conditioning thermostat. The thermostat senses heat from these appliances, which can cause the air conditioner to run longer than necessary.
Learn additional tips for operating a room air conditioner efficiently.
- Vacuum air vents regularly to remove any dust buildup. Ensure that furniture and other objects are not blocking the airflow through your vents.
Energy Efficiency Incentives
The U.S. Department of Energy maintains a database of energy efficiency incentive programs available in each state. The programs and incentives listed on the database vary among states, municipalities, and utilities. The Database of State Incentives for Renewables & Efficiency webpage for incentives and programs offered in Texas can be found at http://dsireusa.org/incentives/index.cfm?EE=0&RE=0&SPV=0&ST=0§or=Residential&state=TX&sh=1.
OPUC speaks to a wide range of groups throughout the year to provide information and assistance to its constituents.
In early 2013, OPUC was invited to speak to the Preston Rotary Club in Dallas, Texas. OPUC also attended the Veterans Summit hosted by the Texas Veterans Commission, where the agency provided helpful information to veterans on navigating the electric market, as well as information on utility assistance programs.
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