Report: Energy costs in Texas are at a 10-year low for some

Terry Hadley, spokesperson for the Public Utility Commission of Texas, holds a copy of the "Transmission and Distribution Utilities in Competitive Retail Areas" map. (Nexstar Photo/Wes Rapaport)
Terry Hadley, spokesperson for the Public Utility Commission of Texas, holds a copy of the "Transmission and Distribution Utilities in Competitive Retail Areas" map. (Nexstar Photo/Wes Rapaport)

AUSTIN (Nexstar) — Despite the sticker shock some Texans expect on their electric bills each month, electricity costs over a recent 10-year period are down for thousands of residents, according to a new report.

That report, released by the Texas Coalition for Affordable Power, indicated that “average residential electricity prices in areas of Texas with retail electric competition have declined during a recent 10-year period, while average prices have increased during that same period in areas exempt from electric competition.”

The data was compiled through 2015, the most recent year with available statistics.

“One of the takeaways from the report is there’s good news and bad news,” the report’s author, R.A. “Jake” Dyer, said.

He explained that even though the gap between competitive-market prices and non-competitive-market prices was getting smaller, average prices remained comparatively high.

“There are many Texans who do not have choice in electricity,” said Terry Hadley, spokesperson for Public Utility Commission of Texas, which regulates electric utilities. “Those [without choice] would be customers who live within a municipal utility, such as Austin Energy. It would also include customers who are part of an electric co-operative, such as Pedernales Electric Co-Op. It would also include fully-regulated utilities, such as El Paso Electric, utilities that are located outside the boundaries of the ERCOT (Electric Reliability Council of Texas) grid.”

Hadley said different kinds of energy, such as wind, solar and nuclear, affect the price points, but that “in Texas, natural gas prices are the main driver on the price that ends up on your electric bill.”

“It could be numerous factors,” he said. “The source of generation for electricity, whether it is nuclear energy, wind energy, natural gas, that affects the cost. The delivery system, the wires company, how many customers cover a footprint of a given utility. Also state and federal regulations can come into play to affect electricity prices around the country.”

According to TCAP’s report, Texas’ price percentage increases are below the national average, and lower than at least 35 other states.

Hadley had a possible explanation.

“Texas summers are much hotter than Connecticut summers,” he said, referring to the state with the highest percentage increase. “A lot of your bill was dependent upon your usage, so to the extent you can be economical, efficient in reducing your electricity use as much as possible, specifically in Texas air conditioning, you can save money there.”

Hadley recommended Texans in competitive markets “shop for the best value for your needs,” while the slower-changing non-competitive market residents may need to contact public officials with questions.

“If you’re in a competitive market, shop. If you aren’t in a competitive market, you have to complain to your city council, your co-op board of directors, or your fully-regulated long-standing utility [to lower prices].”

Prices in non-competitive markets are historically lower than in competitive markets, but Dyer said a long-term goal was to make the gap as small as possible.

“It’d be nice that in the future at some point folks are paying similar prices,” Dyer added. To read the results of the Texas Coalition for Affordable Power report, click here.

For additional maps and resources from the Public Utility Commission of Texas, click here.

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