Texans Could Get a Summer Electric Bill Rebate
LCG, May 10, 2001The Texas House of Representatives tentatively approved legislation that would give electric utility customers a refund late this summer, despite protests from utilities that "It's premature to be tinkering" with the state's 1999 electric deregulation law.Customers of Reliant Energy Inc. in the Houston area would see refunds of up to $120 and those of TXU Utilities Co. would get about $54 if the House gives final approval to the measure, it passes in the Senate and is signed into law.Those are a lot of "ifs" and the utilities say they will fight the measure every step of the way.When the deregulation law was passed, investor-owned utilities were allowed to accumulate certain "excess" earnings as a hedge against anticipated losses resulting from changes in the industry. The overcharges were to be reconciled with actual losses in 2004.The losses have not materialized "as yet," say the utilities and some politicians look on the accumulated money as a way to buy votes. "Don't let the message go out that we have a chance to lower their bills and we voted 'No,'" said the bill's sponsor, Rep. Sylvester Turner, a Houston Democrat.The utilities say coughing up the money could produce financial instability and that could lead to problems like those in California.But Texas-size problems appear to be a lot smaller than California-size problems. Turner's measure would cost TXU about $212 million, Reliant around $146 million and Central Power & Light Co. a measly $8 million.
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