Plan to move Lubbock electric customers could have statewide ramifications

The Texas Public Utility Commission (left to right): Brandy Marty Marquez, chair DeAnn T. Walker, and Arthur C. D'Andrea, at a hearing on Jan. 17, 2018, related to the City of Lubbock's proposal by Lubbock Power & Light to shift 70 percent of customers to the Electric Reliability Council of Texas. (Nexstar Photo/Wes Rapaport)
The Texas Public Utility Commission (left to right): Brandy Marty Marquez, chair DeAnn T. Walker, and Arthur C. D'Andrea, at a hearing on Jan. 17, 2018, related to the City of Lubbock's proposal by Lubbock Power & Light to shift 70 percent of customers to the Electric Reliability Council of Texas. (Nexstar Photo/Wes Rapaport)

AUSTIN (KXAN) — A state panel will decide the fate of a plan by Lubbock city officials to move nearly three-quarters of its electricity customers to a grid powered by the Electric Reliability Council of Texas (ERCOT).

The move would shift 70 percent of Lubbock Power and Light’s customers from the current Southwestern Public Service Company (SPS) system to ERCOT, which already serves more than 90 percent of the state.

Lubbock Mayor Dan Pope at a Public Utility Commission hearing in Austin on Jan. 17, 2018, related to the City of Lubbock's proposal by Lubbock Power & Light to shift 70 percent of customers to the Electric Reliability Council of Texas. (Nexstar Photo/Wes Rapaport)
Lubbock Mayor Dan Pope at a Public Utility Commission hearing in Austin on Jan. 17, 2018, related to the City of Lubbock’s proposal by Lubbock Power & Light to shift 70 percent of customers to the Electric Reliability Council of Texas. (Nexstar Photo/Wes Rapaport)

“LP&L is not before you today to try to smash in the door to this transition,” LP&L counsel Christopher Brewster told the PUC. “We’ve tried to proceed in a collaborative and deliberative manner as possible and as think the transition presents benefits to both markets.”

Brewster said one of the reasons for the proposal was to create a competitive marketplace and give customers a choice on their electricity provider.

LP&L revealed that several of the parties involved had reached an agreement in principle over the weekend, in which one of the options on the table was for LP&L to pay $22 million per year for 5 years to offset some of the transmission cost and other potential increases as a result of the move. The agreement has not been finalized.

Ann Coffin, counsel for Southwest Power Pool, Inc., said moving the Lubbock customers would have ramifications statewide, not only on the ERCOT side, but on the customers remaining with SPS.

“Our interest is to ensure our customers are protected against any costs they would incur,” SPS counsel Ron Moss said.

Erika Garcia, who serves on staff at PUC, said it was staff’s recommendation and “in the public interest” to allow the switch to integrate. but “only if LP&L holds SPS customers harmless for any such costs,” that would arise.

While many of the 13 parties said they either supported the move or held no position, several said they wanted to ensure current customers on either end would not see consequential cost increases.

The Texas Public Utility Commission (left to right): Brandy Marty Marquez, chair DeAnn T. Walker, and Arthur C. D'Andrea, at a hearing on Jan. 17, 2018, related to the City of Lubbock's proposal by Lubbock Power & Light to shift 70 percent of customers to the Electric Reliability Council of Texas. (Nexstar Photo/Wes Rapaport)
The Texas Public Utility Commission (left to right): Brandy Marty Marquez, chair DeAnn T. Walker, and Arthur C. D’Andrea, at a hearing on Jan. 17, 2018, related to the City of Lubbock’s proposal by Lubbock Power & Light to shift 70 percent of customers to the Electric Reliability Council of Texas. (Nexstar Photo/Wes Rapaport)

“ERCOT is asking that the commission resolve in this preceding the matter of who will build the transmission facilities,” ERCOT counsel Erika Kane told the commissioners. “ERCOT has taken no position on that issue but does ask that the commission include that matter in its final order.”

Others reiterated their desires that the PUC to clearly outline who would be responsible for funding the installation of transmission lines and compensating any customers who would feel a burden after the move.

The hearing was scheduled to continue into Thursday at which point the commissioners may make their determination.

To watch the meeting in its entirety, click here.

Reporter’s Note: This article was updated to correctly state that the possible agreement would include LP&L paying $22 million per year for 5 years to offset certain costs. The article previously stated the $22 million would be paid out over a 5 year period.

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