Lawmakers Recommend Changes to Texas Electricity Regulator

AUSTIN (Nexstar) — Lawmakers tasked with scrutinizing state agencies in the Texas Sunset Advisory Commission are set to release new recommendations for the future of the Public Utilities Commission Wednesday afternoon.

Amid worries about the Texas power grid, the Sunset commission will act on testimony from PUC staff detailing problems with the agency’s funding and operations.

In a November report, PUC staff told the commission that the electricity regulator “cannot truly meet expectations for a reliable power grid” without additional resources, clear decision-making processes and improved communications efforts.

As a state utility regulator vital to serving Texas’ growing population and growing economy, PUC is required to maintain good public relations,” the report said. “However, ongoing confusion over the jurisdiction and responsibilities of the PUC… prevents the agency from adequately educating and informing consumers.”

The report proposes that lawmakers require the agency to form a strategic communications plan and direct them to provide easily accessible information on a redesigned website.

The sunset commission was supposed to meet at 11:00. As of 2:00 pm they had not yet begun a long list of agenda items.

The commission is meeting one day after Governor Greg Abbot delivered a letter to the Public Utilities Commission expressing his support for the utility’s market reorganization plan. Last July, he directed the agency to implement new measures to improve network reliability, after a deadly winter storm in 2021 prompted a rethinking of the market structures and profit-making incentives that keep Texas light going.

“The Performance Review Mechanism (PCM) needs to be given close attention,” Governor Abbott wrote to the PUC on Tuesday. “The fact that manufacturers are already publicly
build thousands of new megawatts of manageable generating resources if PCM is adopted and implemented by the PUC, further supporting this view.”

Some interest groups expressed skepticism that the change would be in the interest of utility payers.

“When a state is looking at different options, they really need to watch the cost come down or people will waste power in a different way because it becomes unaffordable,” said Tim Morstad of AARP Texas. “Any increase really needs to be scrutinized. Is it absolutely necessary? Can we somehow achieve these goals without spending so many Texans on our hard-earned money?”

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