The PUC met on June 3 to take up a number of items. Specifically, the commission discussed projects for review, utility bill issues, and investigations. Docket items span communications, the implications of the February 2021 Winter Weather Event, electricity, and other miscellaneous topics. The agenda and a video of the meeting can be found here.

This report is intended to give you an overview and highlight of the discussions on the various topics taken up. It is not a verbatim transcript of the discussions but is based upon what was audible or understandable to the observer and the desire to get details out as quickly as possible with few errors or omissions.

 

Public Comments

  • Rita Robler — Community Advocate, Resident of Denver Harbor in Houston
    • Many residents of the area still have busted pipes from Winter Storm Uri
    • Request for increased support
  • Carolyn Rivera — Community Advocate, Resident of Northeast Houston
    • Request for extension of moratorium beyond June 11th to assist with high utility bills

 

1. Project No. 60664 — Issues Related to the State of Disaster for Coronavirus Disease 2019. (Discussion and possible action).

  • Not discussed; please reference agenda for details.

 

2. Project No. 51812 —Issues Related to the State of Disaster for the February 2021 Winter Weather Event. (Discussion and possible action).

  • Gliessen — moratorium on disconnect for nonpayment has been extended for roughly 3 months, introduced Wilkinson who details programs to benefit utility customers
  • Wilkinson, Executive Director of Texas Department of Housing and Community Affairs — Programs to assist with energy bills:
    • Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program (LIHEAP): 2021 federal LIHEAP is $161 million statewide, around double the normal amount
      • Assists owners and renters in all counties that are 150% of the federal poverty level or below with utility payments and includes a weatherization component
      • Adjustments — took February out of the maximum; maximums are doubled from previous amounts
    • Texas Rent Relief and ARPA: over $2 billion total for rent relief and utility payment aid to those financially impacted throughout the pandemic
  • Corona, Commission staff — emphasized Wilkinson’s point that retail electric providers should register with TDHCA to receive direct deposit of funds
  • McAdams — In the interest of greater communication, PUC staff will provide a one-page resource list of programs for the public and the legislature
  • McAdams — Vulnerable populations may not qualify for rent relief program
    • Individuals may need more time to work through a flexible assistance program
    • A 5-month bill assistance extension will go into effect when moratorium is lifted
    • Stakeholders request a 9-month extension that would disconnect people during February
    • McAdams advocates for a 5-month extension that would disconnect people in the milder month of November
  • Cobos, Public Counsel for the Office of Public Utility Counsel — Resource promotion to residential consumers
    • Cobos urges representatives to work with small business consumers if moratorium is lifted
    • Flexibility will be helpful in relieving large bills
  • Lake — Pending legislation will play a role in financial situations of representatives
  • McAdams — Clarification question: small businesses can apply for a flexible assistance program
    • Hope is that second tranche of federal money can be applied to aid for particularly vulnerable groups like small businesses
  • Webking — First step for consumers is outreach to retail electric providers
    • Representatives should work with consumers to create individualized plans that will fit their needs
  • McAdams — payments that are passed on go to transmission, distribution, and generation service providers who invest in infrastructure that allows summer needs to be met
    • Moratorium has created a liquidity problem as we approach peak months
  • Ögelman — ERCOT Update
    • Two NPRRs that would address urgent market design changes
      • Cap ancillary service prices at $9,000, tentatively by July
      • Would ensure that price is at system wide offer cap when we are in EEA 3 and load shed
    • McAdams — Do NPRRs conform with Senate Bill 3?
    • Ögelman — Rulemaking could follow law passage without a need for change in protocol
    • Lake — Changes could allow for avoidance of problems that occurred in February and could streamline pricing during highest stress. What will happen when load shed is over?
      • Ögelman — Automatically revert to normal market pricing
    • Lake — Endorses changes due to important effects they will have in a short time frame
      • Suggests stress tests to determine how changes will hold up in times of energy scarcity
    • Ögelman — NPRRs are stress-tested and will be filed with urgent status

 

3. Project No. 51825—Investigation Regarding the February 2021 Winter Weather Event. (Discussion and possible action).

  • Corona — Update on planned communications for the summer is available
  • Barlow — Goal looking forward is to make sure all bases are covered
    • Working to communicate outcomes of the legislative session and focus on the summer
    • Engaging with the media to target the correct audiences and effectively communicate with the public
  • Schein — Need for clearer communication from ERCOT is driving plans going forward
  • Barlow — ERCOT has been engaging in an outreach program for individuals struggling to pay utility bills
    • Next phase will be adding additional resources to the ERCOT website
    • Goal is increased communication at earlier notice to enable sufficient preparation
  • Lake — most significant element is working together in communication with Texans
    • More streamlined and clear, less jargon
    • Partnership and communications extend beyond grid conditions
  • McAdams — need to promulgate as many educational products as possible
    • EEA 1 should signal to market participants that products should be brought in to bolster reliability
    • Requests a one-pager that defines EEA 1 to provide the public with increased understanding

 

4. Project No. 51830 —Review of Wholesale-Indexed Products for Compliance with Customer Protection Rules for Retail Electric Service (Discussion and possible action).

  • Corona — staff proposes to broaden scope of project
    • Incorporates changes made by HB 16 which prohibits wholesale-indexed products for residential and small commercial customers
      • Further enhances notification requirements
    • Request review of “Your Rights as a Customer” document
      • Add load shed and critical load provisions
    • Will bring a proposal for publication at the July 15th Open Meeting
    • Will offer a rough draft of rule changes for discussion through June and early July
  • Lake — discussion will be a good use of work sessions
    • Inputs of consumers and retailers will be highly valued
    • Should consider ancillary component for commercial users discussed earlier in the meeting
  • McAdams — approves of format and schedule

 

5. Project No. 51839 —Electric-Gas Coordination. (Discussion and possible action).

  • Not discussed; please reference agenda for details.

 

6. Project No. 51840 —Rulemaking to Establish Weatherization Standards. (Discussion and possible action).

  • Corona —project has a 6-month statutory deadline in SB 3
    • Would like to bring a draft in July and a proposal for publication in August
  • Lake and McAdams — approve of timeline
  • Lake — request to consider summer/winter dynamic and solution’s coverage of each set of conditions
    • Should look at other countries and states that have successfully handled these types of situations

 

7. Project No. 51841 — Review of 16 TAC 25.53 Relating to Electric Service Emergency Operation Plans. (Discussion and possible action).

  • Corona — staff is currently looking at existing emergency operations plans and proposing new standards for revisions
    • No proposed schedule at this time but staff has begun review

 

8. Project No. 51871 — Review of the ERCOT Scarcity Pricing Mechanism. (Discussion and possible action).

  • McAdams — required to open scarcity pricing mechanism as delineated in SB 3

 

9. Project No. 51888 — Review of Critical Load Standards and Processes. (Discussion and possible action).

  • Corona — July workshop and tentative rule adoption in November

 

10. Project No. 51889 — Review of Communication for the Electric Market. (Discussion and possible action).

  • Barlow — increased outreach and making resources more accessible
    • Bill inserts
    • Engaging all entities involved
    • Looking into implementation of emergency communications
    • Earlier communication in tight grid conditions

 

11. Discussion and possible action on electric reliability; electric market development; powerto-choose website; ERCOT oversight; transmission planning, construction, and cost recovery in areas outside of ERCOT; and electric reliability standards and organizations arising under federal law.

  • McAdams — focus for June should be ensuring that power grid is reliable as we approach potentially dire summer conditions

 

12. Discussion and possible action regarding implementation of state and federal legislation affecting electricity markets including current and projected rulemakings and other projects, comments to other state and federal agencies and Commission priorities.

  • SB 2 alters ERCOT governance — propose to open a project that will be completed by September 1st
  • SB 3 — directive to create criteria for a power outage alert that would cover content, activation, and termination
    • New project to begin as soon as bill is signed into law
  • SB 3 — includes water customer protections that would run concurrently with projects in the electric industry

 

13. Project No. 51715 — Rulemaking Calendar. (Discussion and possible action). David Smeltzer

  • Not discussed; please reference agenda for details.

 

14. Discussion and possible action regarding customer service issues, including but not limited to correspondence and complaint issues.

  • Not discussed; please reference agenda for details.

 

15. Discussion and possible action on infrastructure reliability, emergency management, and homeland security.

  • McAdams — uncertain about when securitization practices can be implemented
  • Lake — a concentrated effort to increase cybersecurity is necessary
    • This may be undertaken as part of an existing project; could also be a new project