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Common misconceptions about Texas electricity deregulation

By Tiffany Reynolds

Texas has a unique power grid that’s completely deregulated. Since it’s the only state with isolated electricity deregulation, many people don’t fully understand how it works, leading to many misconceptions about Texas power. Keep reading to unpack some of these misconceptions and learn why they aren’t a reality.

What is Texas electricity deregulation?

For people unaware of Texas electricity deregulation history, the electricity market in most of Texas has been deregulated since 2002. This means that an independent organization is responsible for maintaining the electricity system and managing and monitoring the wholesale and retail electricity markets.

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This organization, the Electric Reliability Council of Texas (ERCOT), has split electricity generation into three parts:

  • Retail providers. These organizations are responsible for the supply of electricity to their customers.
  • Distribution and transmission. These are the companies responsible for delivering electricity and maintaining poles and wires. Since its scope largely includes infrastructure, this section is still government-regulated.
  • Power generation. These companies are responsible for generating electricity and have to register with the Public Utility Commission of Texas and follow market rules.

ERCOT coordinates transactions between buyers and sellers along with collecting money from the companies that consume power and paying the resources for power generation.

The common misconceptions about energy deregulation

Many common misconceptions about energy deregulation stem from the concern that each provider will only care for profits, and government regulations are the only way to give the consumer power. Let’s look at some common misconceptions to understand how deregulation takes care of them.

1. Monopolies will be created in the energy industry

Without government regulations, you may think it’s easier for a company to gain control over a significant portion of the electric market, creating a monopoly. However, regulations actually place many entry barriers that restrict the market to only a small number of power companies.

The deregulation of Texas electricity market makes it easier for new and smaller companies to enter the market because they can invest their capital into innovations, plants, and equipment, rather than compliance with federal rules. This competitive market sets the general prices, since energy consumers have more options to choose from, if they’re dissatisfied with their current plan.

This competition causes some companies to market plans that include hidden fees and gimmicks in the fine print, which you will only learn about after signing on to their plans. Power Wizard can help you filter out these plans that seem attractive but end up overcharging you. So, you can find a plan that actually best suits your situation.

2. Customer electricity services won’t be protected

Government regulations are responsible for protecting customer services. They outline consumers’ rights and duties, ensuring that energy companies can’t worsen your service to save money. To maintain this protection despite deregulation, the Public Utility Commission of Texas and Texas Legislature — a three-member panel that the governor appoints — regulates ERCOT.

The responsibilities set by the commission for ERCOT aim to protect consumer rights. The main responsibilities are:

  • Maintain a reliable electricity system
  • Facilitate competitive wholesale and retail markets
  • Ensure consumers have open access to transmission

3. Renewable energy plans will become less desirable

Providers need to make hefty initial investments to produce renewable energy. Thus, it seems sensible to think that energy suppliers will make renewable energy plans more expensive to mitigate their costs, making them less desirable.

The Texas state government, aware of this possibility, enacted policies like renewable energy funds and portfolio standards that support renewable energy production. Many companies also recognize that renewable energy produces relatively cheap electricity after the initial investment, adjusting their fees accordingly.

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Texas deregulation of electricity has also led retail electricity providers to invest in research and development. So, they can remain competitive in the market. Resultantly, the green energy market continues to expand. For instance, in America, Texas has the largest capacity for wind energy, higher than the next three states combined.

4. Electricity price spikes will occur often

Without government regulations, prices in a market fluctuate much more according to market forces. For instance, if there’s a spike in natural gas prices, there are less government restrictions or manipulations that keep providers from raising electricity prices to compensate.

In the wholesale market, ERCOT has established a “day-ahead market” to combat this. The market lets participants buy and sell energy the day before operation at financially binding prices. This helps all participants in the market avoid price volatility.

It is true, however, that many utility companies do overcharge consumers by hiding information in the fine print. That’s why Power Wizard filters through hundreds of available plans to help you select the best. A VIP member need not worry about handling the enrollment hassles and monitoring all plans to ensure they always have the best rate.

5. An independent electric grid is incapable of managing power

In many states, an independent electric grid wouldn’t have the resources to manage the generation and distribution of electricity on its own. Most of them depend on other states for some power generation resources. However, the Texas grid is isolated, relying on internal resources for electricity. This makes an independent grid possible in the state.

ERCOT makes its grid more viable with its unique market. In other states, generators get payments for both energy production and capacity, but the Texas market only trades energy. This incentivizes generators to sell more electricity and makes them more responsive to peaks in electricity consumption, such as during hot summer days when everyone runs their A/C.

Unfortunately, since there isn’t a direct reward for capacity (the availability of extra power), emergency situations like the winter storm in 2021 can lead to large-scale outages. The isolation of the grid also means that, in these events, Texas can’t draw emergency power from other states.

This isn’t a bad sign, but it does show us areas where ERCOT still needs to improve. Texas’ main power sources are currently natural gas and wind. By protecting the infrastructure for these sources against extreme cold and having more power sources, the independent grid can do a better job at managing electricity.

The truth about electric deregulation in Texas

Texas energy deregulation does have disadvantages, though many misconceptions have been resolved. There are protections in place to ensure customers’ rights and support renewable energy production. The low barriers to entry allow smaller companies to invest more capital into new technology to compete with larger providers, preventing formation of monopolies.

ERCOT plays a major role in ensuring that electric deregulation doesn’t hinder you, ensuring reliable electricity and helping mitigate price fluctuations. While some areas require improvement, such as power generation infrastructure, it has successfully powered Texas homes without regulations for the last 20 years and will continue development to ensure that Texans have reliable power regardless of emergency situations.

Get the best electricity rates in the Texas energy market

Deregulation does mean that companies have less oversight on their plan offerings. However, this often leads to consumers overpaying for their power. Avoiding every electric company’s hidden traps is a difficult process. Power Wizard is here to help you navigate all plans in market. So, you can find the right one for you.

Try out Power Wizard to find the best rate for you in the way that feels most comfortable to you. If you want to maintain full control over your plan, you can make a small one-time payment to find the best plan available. If you would prefer taking a more hands-off approach, you can sign up for a subscription membership, and we will find and monitor the best plans for you.

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